You’re Not Dead Until I Say You’re Dead!

** This is the continuing story of my adventures at the police academy after suffering a mid-life crisis in my forties. It's best to start at the beginning with the first post.

I wish I could say the next two days went as smoothly as the first, but they didn’t. I struggled with two of the scenarios, and completely failed one of them. In the one I failed, I was driving a patrol car and came upon a vehicle pulled to the side of the road, with its hood up, and a man standing with his head buried in the engine. I pulled over behind the vehicle, activated my emergency lights, and called dispatch with my location.

I approached the man, asking if I could help. He straightened up and began shooting at me with a cap gun. It sounded real and scarred the shit out of me. I stumbled back trying to remove my gun from my holster as the man continued firing. I probably took six bullets directly to the chest, when I turned to the instructor and said the fatal words, “I’m dead.”

All hell broke lose. Sgt. Dickens was standing to the side of my vehicle, and he blew a gasket.

“You are not dead, you never stop fighting. You’re a fucking loser Cadet Ivy, and I should kick your ass out of the academy right now.”

I stood frozen. I wanted to bury my head in the dirt and cry. Sgt. Dickens told me to get the fuck out of his site and I left. What a disaster. I didn’t fail the remedial but the mental damage was done. It wasn’t until I found out that three quarters of the class failed that specific practical, that I felt somewhat better. I’m surprised Sgt. Dickens had a voice left; apparently he yelled at all of us and threatened to kick everyone out.

I also missed a small gun while searching a suspect. The gun was on a chain around her neck, in her cleavage. I managed to grab the gun as she was pulling it out to shoot me, but I was pissed off at myself. I had performed a bad search on a female suspect of all things. After that incident, my searches were extremely thorough and I found two additional guns during the following scenarios. One was literally underneath a suspect’s penis. I found it, removed it and then washed my hands when the scenario was finished. I did find some satisfaction in shaking everyone’s hand before I was able to wash.

My last scenario on Friday was with simulated weapons (SIMs). A small group of us were waiting outside the driver’s track building and we were able to pick partners. Rocco was in the group so we partnered up. We then geared up with head, chest and groin protection. I could barely breathe in my face mask. We were also handed SIMs guns with rubber bullets. These guns fire and launch a rubber bullet and leave a colored chalk mark on what they shoot. We were also told it would be painful if we took a hit.

When it was our turn, we walked to the front of the building, and were told to enter the abandoned building to search for a trespassing vagrant. Rocco and I began the search. The building was dark and we used our flashlights. We had our guns drawn, looking and listening, although all I could hear was my loud, too fast breathing. We searched room by room. There was a small closet and Rocco opened the door as I peered inside. My gun came up and I began shouting commands. There was a man standing inside, next to a water heater. He had his weaponless hands, visibly crossed, in front of him. He put his hands up and complied as we talked him out of the closet. The scenario was over and so were the practical tests.

Rocco and I went back to the classroom and it took about an hour for everyone else to finish up. We were all telling each other what we had passed and failed. Every one of us made mistakes. We were all upset over the pop gun incident and no one felt as if they’d aced it. Donna had not returned and I didn’t find out how she did until we were released, she came in and sat down right before our scolding started.

Sgt. Dickens came into the room after we were all assembled. He was pissed off and stated there were forty three guns missed in searches. He asked everyone that missed a gun to stand up. Everyone stood. Some missed more than one. We were given forty three hill runs to be completed the following Monday.

The judges reviewed their scenarios, and the good job I did on the domestic violence tests was pointed out. Cadets having problems were to work with me if they felt they needed help. I could tell this pissed off Sgt. Dickens. I glimpsed his way as I was being praised and he never acknowledged me at all. Other cadets were praised for different scenarios and we would have been proud of ourselves if it wasn’t for the angry look on Sgt. Dickens’ face.

Donna and another cadet were called to the Sergeant’s office when we were given permission to leave for the weekend. I waited for Donna before taking off. She was crying when she entered the room.

She told me she shot the unarmed man in the closet with her SIMs gun. She was one of two cadets who fired. Sgt. Dickens told them they both needed to think long and hard over the weekend about being police officers. I consoled her and said Sgt. Dickens was an ass. We both packed our laundry and took off for our homes.

Donna called me that weekend and told me she was not returning. She was sorry to leave me alone, but she could not take it any more. Her mind was set.

My son also announced he had taken a job in Phoenix and would be moving out in two weeks. He barely spoke to me and refused to ask about the academy. I love him dearly but his attitude hurt. I didn’t know if he would ever see me as my own person and not just his mother. My daughters were both proud of me. Letty, my oldest had announced her wedding date a few weeks earlier. She already had an apartment of her own. Cassie, the youngest, was doing well in her first semester of college. She had left for Tucson when I left for the academy.

With Roger moving out, my house would finally have just my husband and me under the roof. In some ways this was a blessing but it was sad as well. My husband would be alone during my last six weeks at the academy. I worried about him. He said he would survive but was counting the days until my graduation. Now that I was at the academy, he never seemed to doubt I would succeed.

Driving back to the academy that Sunday was hard, and I had a heavy heart. My friend would not be there waiting for me. I cried for her and myself. I realized becoming a police officer was about inner strength and heart. I made the drive slowly not wanting to face my empty dorm room.            

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