Week 15: Driving! The week we were all most excited for went by way too fast (no pun intended). Sunday began bright and early with quite a few inches of snow on the ground. Unfortunately we could not get on to the driving track that morning, so we had to wait until Monday to start the week. After getting word that we had the rest of our Sunday off, a brief snowball fight ensued, and then many of us got breakfast together.
On Monday and Tuesday we started by working on fundamentals. We began with simple procedures like forward and reverse serpentines, shuffle steering, parking, and braking. After a few hours of practice, most of us had a good understanding of the size of the car and were able to complete the drills easily.
A valuable lesson we all have learned at some point throughout the academy is that we should give it our all, and learn from our mistakes when they occur. At no other time will we have the opportunity to push our limits and drive the way we have during academy training.
One recruit in particular experienced his limits firsthand this week, which resulted in the patrol car spinning out of control and going off the track not once, but twice. During the second spin-out, this recruit managed to hit a small white shed placed a little ways off the side of the track. And of course, this shack was literally the only structure in sight. After confirming that the recruit was not injured, we all had a good laugh about it, which will probably last at least until the end of the academy.
Prior to this week, I had never driven a car that went anywhere near as fast as the police interceptors. The interceptors have a lot of power, but have equally reliable braking and solid handling. My favorite exercise from the beginning of the week simulated accident avoidance. We were required to steer abruptly to the left around a hypothetical “object” while lightly braking, then coming to a complete stop all within about 50 feet. It was exciting to complete this exercise at almost 70 miles per hour.
Later in the week we drove at night and did a vehicle pursuit. In two-person teams, we pursued a fleeing suspect vehicle around the track with lights and sirens. The primary vehicle called out the initial stop to Dispatch, then followed the suspect car closely. The secondary vehicle proceeded to cover the primary car while airing the details of the pursuit to Dispatch. Driving with lights and sirens at night while having to talk frequently on the radio definitely challenged our ability to multitask.
On Saturday it was time to put our training to work and test our skills. Instructors had us complete the P.O.S.T. course backwards twice to mess with our orientation of the track. After those two laps, we were given the opportunity to finally complete our final P.O.S.T. driving test. Almost all recruits passed on their first try. It was great to see everyone’s hard work and focus pay off.