Police officer academy training is extremely intense. It’s tough. It’s mentally and physically challenging.

During the course of basic training, officers are taught many topics, tactics, and techniques.

Academy instructors advise recruits on the hundreds upon hundreds things they must do right during their careers as law enforcement officers.

Here are five things they should NOT do.


Spots are still available to the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. Yes, registration is still open and, we have lots more surprises on the way. This is an event you’ll remember for a lifetime so please hurry while slots are available! Oh, be sure to refer a friend and have them sign up as well. You’ll soon see why that could be a very important step.




Ambush: don't be a target

Shots fired! Officer down! We’re taking rounds from somewhere, but we don’t know where! It’s a set up. Take cover! Send help. Now!

Ambush. It’s a nightmare scenario for police officers, and it’s a nightmare that’s difficult to predict. It’s also a nightmare that’s nearly impossible to avoid, because when people call and say they’re in trouble, well, the police have to respond. It’s what they do, and the bad guys know this and use it to their advantage.

However, there are some things officers can do to protect themselves. Like assessing all situations before plowing in head first. But that’s just plain old common sense. The best avenue for safety is to think like the bad guys. Be creative. How would a crook set up an ambush? What are some scenarios that would lure a police officer into the spider’s lair?

New Picture (2)

Well, this should all come as second nature for a cop. After all, police officers ambush bad guys all the time, and they’re quite good at it, too. But, most officers probably never considered that ambush is one of their best tactics.

Let’s compare a crook’s ambush plan to a police officer’s plan of attack when arresting a dangerous suspect. Any similarities?

1. Good guys –  Police officers gather intelligence on the suspect before moving in.

Bad guys – Study the habits of their police officer target before making a move.

2. Good guys – Before attempting to arrest a dangerous suspect try to get him alone, away from partners.

Bad guys – Before attempting to kill a highly-skilled police officer try to get him alone, away from his partners.

3. Good guy – When making the arrest always be in charge. Go! Go! Go! Stay on the offensive.

Bad guy – Don’t wait for the target to make a move. Be aggressive. Go! Go! Go!

4. Good guy –  Get the suspect on your turf and terms. Maintain control of arrest/take down location.

Bad guy – Get the cop off balance. Take him out of his element. Call 911 and report a crime in a deserted area. Maintain control of kill zone.

5. Good guy – Always find and use cover. Stay protected.

Bad guy – Stay hidden. Never expose your location.

6. Good guy – When the time is right go with all your might. Take ’em down fast and hard.

Bad guy – Cut him no slack. Take him out, fast.

So, you see, a cop’s arrest planning and execution is quite similar to a crook’s planning and execution of an ambush. Cops should definitely use this “inside” knowledge to help protect themselves against an attack.

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What’s the best defense against an ambush?

1. Always assume that someone could be waiting to ambush you. Don’t take a risk to save time, or because it seems foolish to take an extra precaution. Being teased by fellow officers is much more appealing than having your kids grow up with only memories of a parent.

2. Habits are costly. Never stick to a routine. Change the route you to take to work/home. Don’t eat at the same restaurant every day. Don’t sit in the same booth. Don’t stop at the same coffee shop on the way to work each morning. Don’t jog the same path after work.

And never, ever sit with your back to the door. Always, always, always sit where you can see all entrances and exits. If possible, have a quick look at everyone who enters. Note their body language and demeanor.

3. Don’t enter locations/situations with only one way out. Always have a retreat strategy and plenty of backup.

4. Look for things and places you can use for cover BEFORE you need it.

5. Go with your gut. If that extra cop sense tells you not to go, then don’t. Wait for back up. A cop’s instinct is usually on the money, so believe in it. Trust your gut and trust your training!

Finally, it’s not your job to be a hero. Your duty is to protect the public. Besides, a dead hero is never anything more than, well, dead.

Let’s see how well you do with a common scenario that officers often encounter. Good luck, and remember the tips above.


The call is at 1313 Mockingbird Lane. The caller, a Mrs. Munster, reported that her husband has been feeling a little green with jealousy and has threatened her with a gun several times during the past few days. In fact, he’s waving one around right now. She tells the dispatcher to please hurry before he kills somebody.

Officers respond. A neighbor meets them at the curb, telling them she heard lots of screaming, yelling, glass breaking, and what she thought was a gunshot. The patrol cops thank the neighbor and ask her to go home where she’ll be safe. They knock on the door. Ms. Lilly Munster answers (she has a black eye) and says her gun-waving husband is now calm and is in the bedroom watching his favorite television show, COPS. She says everything is okay and then invites them inside to have a look. But she seems nervous. Very nervous.

What should the officers do? Immediately go inside to speak with Mr. Munster? Wait for back up and then storm the house? Order Mr. Munster outside? What about Mrs. Munster? What happens to her?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

*     *     *

*Obviously, officers cannot predict and/or prevent every bad situation. But using caution, training, and common sense are crucial elements of living to see another day.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Las Vegas Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, who were killed by ambush this week as they were inside a restaurant eating lunch.

The 41st Police Academy Graduates: Another Officer In The Family

Graduation from a police academy is a moment in life that is forever ingrained into an officer’s mind. The event marks the end of a grueling period of study and intense physical training. And, it’s the beginning of an exciting and rewarding career. For many, that career is the dream of a lifetime.

Last week, Denene and I had the pleasure of attending a police academy graduation in Northeast North Carolina. And to make the event even more special for us, our nephew was one of the graduating cadets.

You’ve all heard me preach about the differences in law enforcement agencies and procedures throughout the country. And, well, police academies and their procedures and rules also differ throughout the country. North Carolina is no exception. In the Tar Heel state, most police officers receive their academy training in community college public safety programs, such as the program where our very own Writers’ Police Academy takes place.

In the North Carolina system, officer-candidates pay their own way, registering for and attending, a college Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) program, and many recruits do this before they have a job with a police agency. They do so hoping a chief or sheriff will recognize their abilities and hire them, and many do. Our nephew is great example of how this works. A sheriff hired him when he was halfway through the academy training, which also meant his new boss picked up the tab for his training, and he began paying his new employee a salary while he finished the academy.

In other states, officers are hired by a department and are then sent to the training academy where they’ll receive the required certification to work as a police officer. By the way, a sheriff may appoint deputy sheriffs who can work, including making lawful arrests, for up to one year before attending any training whatsoever.

Anyway, back to the nephew’s graduation…

The 41st Academy, consisting of several jurisdictions, began as a class of 21, but only 5 made the cut. That’s right, 16 cadets didn’t make it to the end, dropping out for various reasons—failed academically, couldn’t take the pressure, couldn’t handle the physical training, failed the driving or firearms testing, etc. As a result, as with all police academies, the 41st was left with the best of the best.

Each police academy class elects a class president. Deputy Phillip Massey (far left) was the president of this academy class (Deputy Massey is also our nephew). It is the job of the class president to keep morale high and to motivate his/her fellow cadets.

The formal ceremony began with an honor guard’s presentation of the colors (state and U.S. flags).

Waiting to march in. By the way, Deputy Massey was represented by four generations of family members—his parents and sister, his grandmother, uncles and aunt, and his 104-year-old great grandmother, were all seated in the audience.

Receiving the certificate from academy officials (BLET coordinator, Dean, President, and academy staff). Awards were also presented for top driver, top shooter, and highest academic achievement. The achievement awards brought back fond memories. I was top shooter in my academy class (I won’t tell the score but it was somewhere between 98 and 100), and I graduated with a GPA of 99.63. Sounds like a great average but even with that score I wound up third academically, out of a class of dozens.

After speeches and words of encouragement, the ceremony ended with the retrieval of the colors…

…and with five brand new, certified police officers ready to hit the streets.

The four deputy sheriffs and one city police officer began their four month field training program last Monday.

Deputy Massey received the Top Driver Award and the “class president” certificate.

The second graduation was over, Denene and I started in on Deputy Nephew…”Always wear your vest…Don’t take any chances…Don’t trust anyone…Be Careful…Stay alert…” Phillip rolled his eyes and politely smiled as we made our way through the been-there, done-that checklist, and I understood as only another cop could.

Anyway, congratulations 41st, and stay safe guys.

*A note to our grandson…don’t get any ideas. The world also needs plumbers, carpenters, doctors, teachers, and writers—hey, that’s a great idea. Writing about cops and robbers is much safer…

FATS training

Show me your hands!

Drop the gun!

Drop the knife!

Get out of the car, now!

The scenes were intense as experienced police officers from the Triad area of North Carolina gathered together to stop scores of gun and knife-wielding bad guys. The officers were forced to use whatever cover they could find during a few pretty chilling shootouts. In one instance, a deputy sheriff was shot by two armed suspects and the lone backup officer was forced to shoot it out with the desperate cop killers.

Later, crazed gunmen entered a high school and began shooting random victims. Three officers entered the school and confronted the shooters. The actions of those officers saved the lives of numerous teenagers.

Actually, the lives of many innocent people were spared during this day-long mandatory training, because officers faced with several potentially deadly scenarios showed incredible skills, knowledge, and restraint. And that’s what FATS training is designed to do, to teach officers when, and when not, to use deadly force.

All police officers are required to attend regular in-service training to maintain their certification as officers. Last Thursday, I attended officer in-service training at the public safety building on the campus of Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC). The training consisted of several classes, but I specifically focused on the Firearms Training Simulator (FATS), since that’s one of the workshops we’re offering at the Writers’ Police Academy (WPA), in September. In fact, the WPA is going to be held at GTCC, and this was the actual room and equipment we’ll be using.

So, come on in, load your weapons, and prepare for the worst.

During the WPA FATS training, attendees will be assigned a partner and together you’ll be expected to do what it takes to end each of the highly charged scenarios. Suspects may or may not comply with your commands. It’s up to you and your partner to see that they do. Remember, the bad guys are criminals and will do what it takes to escape. Many of them are armed, and some of them will shoot at you!

A suspect fires at the responding officer.

FATS Instructor Jerry Cooper

The Writers’ Police Academy FATS class will be taught by certified instructor Jerry Cooper. Remember, the Writers’ Police Academy is a realistic police academy experience designed to give writers an inside look at actual police training. This is not a typical writers conference.

We will be using real Sig Sauers and Glocks for the FATS training. The weapons have been modified for use with the FATS system. We’ll also be utilizing pepperspray and flashlights (night scenarios) that have been specially designed to work with FATS.

Officers are constantly reminded of their use of force options, even during the live training scenarios.

An officer’s chance of survival during a firefight is 95% if he uses some sort of cover.

When the threat level de-escalates, so must an officer’s level of force. For example, officers may not shoot a fleeing felon. The threat diminished when the suspect chose to run. Instructor Jerry Cooper reminds officers to use non-lethal weapons when appropriate. In this instance, he’s indicating an expandable baton.

A good old-fashioned knee strike may be all that’s needed to bring a combative suspect under control.

Officers are cautioned about sympathetic gun fire—when one officer fires, everyone shoots as a reaction.

A suspect dropped his gun, but was still non-compliant and extremely combative. This officer holstered his firearm and switched to the non-lethal Taser, an appropriate move.

FATS training is realistic and can be very intense, but it’s also a lot of fun. It is our hope that each attendee of the Writer’s Police Academy will leave the event with a better understanding of what it’s like to spend the day as a police officer. This event is designed to make you a part of the law enforcement world, even if it’s only for a weekend. There’s no other experience like this, anywhere. It’s like Disneyland for writers. See you there!

September 24-26, 2010

Guilford Technical Community College

Jamestown, N.C.


* Don’t forget to stop by our Facebook page for a peek at the author of the day. It could be you!

Police Academy Training - Firearms

Firearms training is one of the most enjoyable parts of the police academy experience. After all, where else can you go to shoot a bunch of ammunition on somebody else’s dime? However, it doesn’t take long for the new recruits to realize these lessons could very well save their lives at some point during their career.

The week begins in the classroom with the students learning the nomenclature of pistols, revolvers, amd shotguns (Remember, not all academy training is the same). They learn how to field strip (take apart) each weapon, clean it, and to safely re-assamble them. They’re taught how to properly lubricate their weapons, and how to check them for damage.


Police officers use pump-type shotguns

After the instructors are certain the rookies are able to safely handle their weapons, they begin teaching how to hold and grip a pistol or revolver. They also show their students the best method of drawing the weapons from a holster.

At this stage, the students get their first experience of drawing their weapons while giving the command “Police, don’t move!” They also practice drawing from various positions, such as standing, kneeling, and while lying prone, on the ground.


Shooting from prone position

Students learn to reload while under fire. They also learn to clear their weapons from jammed cartridges and other stoppages. The recruits practice lifting their weapons to eye level; they learn to focus on the weapon’s sights while keeping the target in their line of vision, and they practice breathing properly. All this rehearsal time builds the recruit’s strength and stamina, an important attribute when they’re in a do or die situation.

Looking through the pistol sights. It’s important to line up the front, single dot sight with the two rear sights (the front dot is the larger white dot in the center).

Soon, the time comes to actually fire their weapons on the range. After dry-firing a few times, they’re ready to load live ammunition.


Police recruits are taught to shoot center mass of their target, meaning the center of the largest portion of the target. On a human, that would be the torso area. To help police officers become accustomed to aiming for center mass, silhouette targets are used for practice in the police academy.

(The following excerpt is from the Virginia Minimum Training Standards for Law Enforcement Officers)

Virginia Modified Double Action Course for Semi-Automatic Pistols.

Target – Silhouette (B21, B21x, B27 or Q).

Minimum Qualifying Score – 70%.

(a) Each officer is restricted to the number of magazines carried on duty. Magazines shall be loaded to their full capacity. The range instructor shall determine when magazines will be changed.

(b) Phase 1 – seven yards, hip shooting, crouch position, load magazine, fire one round double action on command (two seconds); or fire two rounds (three seconds), make weapon safe, holster, repeat until six rounds have been fired.

On command, draw and fire two rounds (three seconds), make weapon safe, holster, repeat until six rounds have been fired.

On command, draw and fire 12 rounds in 20 seconds, make weapon safe, and holster.

(c) Phase 2 – 15 yards point shoulder position. On command, draw and fire one round (two seconds); or draw and fire two rounds (three seconds), make weapon safe, holster, repeat until six rounds have been fired.

On command, draw and fire one round (two seconds) or two rounds (three seconds), make weapon safe, holster, repeat until six rounds have been fired.

On command, draw and fire six rounds (12 seconds), make weapon safe, holster.

(d) Phase 3 – 25 yards, kneeling and standing position. On command, assume kneeling position, draw weapon and fire six rounds, then fire six rounds weak hand, standing, barricade position, then fire six rounds strong hand, standing, barricade position, until a total of 18 rounds have been fired (70 seconds).


Before police officers actually hit the streets to begin making arrests, directing traffic, responding to domestic complaints, and investigating murders, they must attend a basic police academy to receive their certifications as police officers. The time spent at a police academy varies. Some basic classes last for as little as twelve weeks while others may last in excess of five or six months. Police academy training is quite similar to military basic training.

Some academies require police officer recruits to live on-site during their training, such as the Virginia State Police Academy pictured above. The VSP academy is a full-service operation, complete with dormatories, an indoor pool, and cafeteria facilities.

Police academy training is similar to basic training

Other locales require their police candidates to attend public police academies, such as the ones taught in some local community colleges. These officer candidates must pay for their own training before they can apply for a job with the prospective police agency.

Basic training consists of many aspects of law-enforcement, but perhaps the most memorable course – the one course that sticks in the minds of all police officers – is Defensive Tactics. Recruits refer to this week in the academy as Hell Week.

During Hell Week recruits learn how to defend themselves from weapon wielding attackers, weapon retention, weapon disarming, handcuffing, baton use, Taser and stun gun use, and the use of pepper spray. They’re also required to excercise and run. Lots of excercising and running. And when they’ve finished all that excercising and running, they run and excercise some more. I probably still have blisters on my feet from the weeks I spent running through the grounds of the VSP academy.

The training is intense, very painful, and exhausting.

Recruits learn to control and handcuff combative suspects by using pain compliance techniques – wrist locks and joint control. These techniques are based on the techniques used by martial artists. Aikido and Chin-Na are two of the styles of martial arts used to develop these hghly effective techniques.


         Aikido                      Morihei Ueshiba – Aikido founder


Aikido uses the attacker’s own force against him.

A wrist turnout applies intense pressure to the joint in the wrist, forcing the suspect off balance.

Proper grasp to begin the wrist turnout (Kotegaeshi Nage) technique. To complete the technique the officer maintains his grasp, rotates the suspect’s hand up and to the rear in a counter-clockwise motion while simultaneously stepping back with his (the officer) left leg. The suspect ends up on the floor on his back (see picture below). Any resistance inflcts excrutiating pain in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

Combative suspects are normally forced the ground for handcuffing. From this position, a quick turn of the suspect’s wrist and arm will force him to roll over on his stomach. Any resistance causes extreme pain and could severely injure the controlled wrist, elbow, and shoulder.

To effectively control the wrist, the elbow must be stationary. From this position, the suspect is easily handcuffed.


This wrist lock can cause intense pain in the wrist, the elbow, and the shoulder. Forward and downward pressure forces the suspect to the ground.

– My thanks to the martial artists in the photos – Chris Fowler and Jesse Allen. Also, a big thanks to Stephani Fowler for snapping the pics. Stephani is currently working on her first book.

* I was a police academy instructor and instructor trainer for many years. I taught basic, advanced, and in-service classes in defensive tactics, officer survival, and firearms. I also trained, certified, and re-certified police academy instructors. Outside the academy, I taught classes in rape-prevention and self defense as well as classes for executive bodyguards. I trained others in stick (tambo) and knife fighting. Throughout my career I maintained the rank of Master Defensive Tactics Intructor/Aikido and Chin-Na Black Belt.