Inside the Academy: Report writing and physical training

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – For nearly six months, recruits at the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy are pushed to their limits – both physically and mentally. Recruits must be committed to getting in top physical shape and learning the duties of a police officer, including knowing the many laws they must enforce and documenting the crimes they investigate.

“We are already hearing from other officers that writing reports is going to be what we do the most often,” said Recruit Mary Mills.

Academy Instructor John Hansen said recruits quickly learn there’s more paperwork involved (in policing) than they initially thought. Hansen has been an instructor at the academy for about two and a half years. He’s been employed with the Clayton Police Department for 10 years.

“Police work is often described as long periods of boredom interrupted by brief periods of excitement,” Hansen said.

Hansen teaches the recruits that even minor crimes mean a lot to the victim.

“To me, what is so special about those reports, any report really, is the fact that we’re telling the citizens that this is something that matters to me,” said Recruit Trevor Green. “So if it’s a busted mailbox or a stolen lawnmower, no, it’s not life threatening, but it was yours, it mattered to you, so it matters to me.”

According to Hansen, once recruits learn the basics of writing police reports, they realize the documentation from minor crimes to more serious offenses is pretty much the same. It’s important the recruits learn early on to be thorough and write detailed reports so the practice becomes second nature before they’re faced with a bigger case.

“If it does go to trial and you left out like one tiny bit of information, the defense attorney can say, ‘Well, you forgot to include that so you were obviously violating my client’s rights,'” said Recruit Octavia Hearon.

She said something like that may give the defense attorney reason to question any and all cases the officer has worked on in the past as well.

While Hansen and other instructors are strengthening the recruits’ minds, Instructor Kathy Poncin is drilling in the importance of strength and fitness as an officer. The recruits’ physical training test consists of push-ups, sit-ups and a mile and a half run.

As first responders, officers are often called to perform lifesaving efforts on a civilian in need of help. This may include moving a civilian to safety. Officers don’t want their strength to be what stands in the way of saving someone in need.

During their training at the academy, recruits are CPR and AED certified.

It’s all about building a strong foundation at the academy, and we’ll see how these lesson help the recruits in other scenarios as they learn search and seizure, a variety of defensive tactics, and how to perform traffic stops.

For more on Fox 2’s exclusive look inside the academy, visit www.fox2now.com/academy.