Selma, AL - With every job comes responsibility. For police officers it’s more than “license and registration” or “you have the right to remain silent.”
It takes a lot to be hired as a police officer. Once you pass the written and physical tests, you go through a background check, psych evaluation, and of course an interview. Then it’s on to the police academy.
That’s where it gets challenging.
There are about ten police academies across the state, but the Alabama Criminal Justice Training Center in Selma may be the toughest.
“You’re told when to wake up, when to do physical training, when to go to bed and when to go to class,” said Officer Michael Dotson, Ozark Police Department.
Instructors say this military-like atmosphere helps instill the right mindset in a career where your life is on the line.
“You have to be prepared. You cannot let the small things go to the wayside. You cannot take shortcuts,” said Corporal Daryl Zuchelli, Alabama State Troopers.
Currently, there are officers from Dothan, Ozark, Enterprise, and many other local towns in the academy.
During the 12 week program students are learning the basics like Alabama state laws, handcuffing procedures, firearms training, and defensive driving techniques. All are important, but car crashes are one of the leading causes of officer deaths.
"We’re going to have to work the radio, we’re going to have to work the lights, and you have to scan where we’re going as we’re driving at a little bit higher speed. It’s difficult,” said Dotson.
A driving simulator gives officers the chance to practice their multitasking skills.
It didn’t look that hard, so I gave it a try. After hitting street signs and a few crashes during a “high speed chase”, I figured out how wrong I was.
“There’s an array of things that you have to be thinking about. Just those small things can really hinder you if you get into a situation out on the road,” said Zuchelli.
The training doesn’t end in Selma.
“We’ll continue education every year, not because of the requirement, but because we need to keep up with different aspects. Criminals change their tactics, and we need to change ours too,” said Dotson.
So remember the next time you see lights in your rearview mirror, remember they’re just doing their job.
“Not only are we here to write a ticket or put someone in jail, but we’re here number one to take care of the public,” said Zuchelli.
Each year officers are required to do 12 hours of extra training. However, many demand more. Also, some departments are implementing a yearly physical fitness test.