Ready on the left? Ready on the right? Ready on the firing line. Commence firing!

Those words, or something similar, are heard by officers all over the country as they attend their annual mandated firearms qualification. Yes, at least once or twice each year all officers receive word to report to the range to qualify with their duty weapons.

Many officers, for the first time since the last mandatory qualification, pull out their handy-dandy gun cleaning kits to spruce up their sidearms. Then, with pistols all clean, shiny, and properly oiled, a few begin to feel a bit of anxiety creeping up. Suppose I don’t qualify? What happens if my scores aren’t high enough? You know, my eyesight is a bit weaker since last year. What if I miss the entire target? Will I lose my job?

Well, those are worries that should never arise because officers should be required, or at least encouraged to shoot more often. Practice by repetition is the key to firearms proficiency. Budget woes should never affect or stand in the way of an officer’s ability to defend himself/herself.

However, ammunition and training time are often one of the first things to go when funds grow tight. But that’s the way it is and that’s the way it’ll probably remain. So cops deal with what they have, which sometimes isn’t much.

Firearms In-Service Training

Some departments do little more than have their officers line up on the range, wait for the command to fire, and then blast away at stationary paper targets, hoping they’ll punch enough holes in them so they can pass the minimum qualification requirements. Then they call it quits until the next year. Short, sweet, and cheap. But is that enough to survive in today’s increasingly dangerous world? No, it’s not.

How Many and What Kind of Attacks?

Each year the FBI collects data regarding the number of law enforcement officers who were assaulted during that particular 12-month period. For example, In 2018, from the 546,247 officers working for a total of 11,788 law enforcement agencies across the U.S., a whopping 58,866 officers were assaulted while performing their duties. To break it down a bit further, that’s 10.8 officers assaulted per 100 sworn officers.

Attacks With Injuries Received

  • 24.7 percent of the officers who received injuries in 2018 were attacked with hands, fists, or feet (personal weapons).
  • 8.4 percent of the officers were attacked by persons wielding knives or other edged weapons.
  • 6.1 percent of officers were attacked with firearms.
  • 16.0 percent of the attacks on officers who were carried out by subjects using weapons other than those listed above.

In the years from 2009-2018, 9,857 were injured by edged weapons, 439,719 by personal weapons, and 80,692 were injured by suspects who used “other” dangerous weapons to carry out attacks. During the same time period 21,954 officers were injured by firearms.

Many of the over 21,000 officers who were victims of firearm attacks were killed during shootouts with armed suspects, NOT in gun battles with stationary paper targets.

Now, I’m not saying those officers weren’t properly trained. Nor am I suggesting they didn’t respond appropriately to the threats to their lives. Not at all. Sometimes you do everything right and the worst still happens. What I am offering is that there are numerous techniques and tactics that could and should be taught to each and every officer. Things that could help them in the field.

Classroom time is great, and necessary, and goodness knows there’s a mountain of wonderful books and research material available.


Police Procedure and Investigation, A Guide for Writers, is a how-to, behind the scenes book designed especially for writers. The book can be found in public schools and university libraries all across the world, on the shelves and desks of thousands of writers, including many top, bestselling authors, on the nightstands of fans of police TV shows and people who’re interested in learning about police officers and procedures, in police departments, police academies, and more.

Book “learnin'” is great, however, it’s a must to incorporate hands-on exercises into police training whenever possible. This is also why the Writers’ Police Academy came into being—so that writers can experience the same training as what’s offered to and required of police officers and investigators.


International bestselling author Tami Hoag, Writers’ Police Academy 2016.

As I stated earlier, officers learn some skills best through repetition, and it’s the “over and over again” training that helps officers learn to react almost instinctively to various threats and situations. Then, when/if those events present themselves, officers will revert to their training and react appropriately.

Therefore, it is an absolute must that officers spend at least some time training under “threat” situations. After all, suspects on the street are simply not going to stand perfectly still with their hands hanging at their sides so that officers can squeeze off 50 or 60 rounds at them. So why should officers train as if they’re going to someday face a one-dimensional faceless paper bank robber?

Believe me, facing a live person who’s shooting at you is far different than shooting at an ink-blotted paper rectangle. Everything changes when a human suspect pulls the trigger, sending a bullet toward your head. Your brain has to suddenly shift from “it’s only a paper target (paper-man, or flat-man, syndrome)” to HOLY S**T HE’S TRYING TO KILL ME! mode.

Sure, some practicing with stationary targets is necessary. That’s how cops learn the basics. But what else could they do to better prepare themselves for the real bad guys?

Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter, Writers’ Police Academy 2015 – Firearms Simulator Training

1. Shoot in low light situations. Not all firefights are going to happen at noon. In fact, many, if not most shooting situations occur at night. So why practice all shooting in the bright sunshine? And practice shooting while holding a flashlight!

2. Tactical reloading. Spend lots of time practicing reloading while under fire (pretend of course). When performing reloading drills, officers should practice discarding/dropping the empty magazine. You do not want your hands full, trying to reload while bullets zip by your head. However, when/if possible, shooters should place the empty magazine where it’s easily accessible for future reloading, if necessary.

3. Practice shooting while using various objects as cover. The practice will then come naturally when in the field. Always use cover!


4. Officers should  always face their target (never turn their backs on the shooter!). However, some departments have the officers first shoot from closer ranges (5 or 7 yards), and then when they’re finished at that distance they turn around and casually walk back to the next firing point. NO! They should back up to the next point. This instills the habit of always facing their aggressor.

5. Strong and weak hand shooting. Always, always, always practice shooting with either hand. The possibility of entering into a firefight with an injured strong hand is always a possibility. If it does, officers certainly want to be able to at least hold, point, and shoot their firearms with some degree of accuracy.

6. Practice shooting at moving targets. Bad guys do not stand still. Neither do cops when they’re in a firefight. So why always practice shooting at stationary objects? I cannot stress this point enough.

7. Spend time on firearms training simulators. Simulators are great tools for preparing officers for real-life scenarios. They’re also great for pointing out weaknesses in stressful situations. I’d rather correct my errors in a classroom, not after I’ve caught a couple of rounds to my torso.


Firearms simulations training, Writers’ Police Academy 2010.


International bestselling author Lee Child and, to his left, world-renowned forensic anthropologist Elizabeth Murray—firearms simulator training, Writers’ Police Academy 2012. Th shooter to Lee’s right is Dr. Murray’s sister.

Finally, and this is to the officers out there, practice, practice, practice. Repetition, repetition, repetition! What you do during training is what you’ll do on the street. I guarantee it. So even if your department doesn’t offer extra time on the range, you do what it takes to find somewhere to practice shooting. Your life may soon depend on your ability to use your weapon effectively.

Be safe! Your lives matter to a lot of people.

Police academy training can be extremely intense at times. And, in most training academies the major source of a recruit’s stress stems from  knowing they must successfully complete the program to remain employed with their departments. Anything below a passing score could result in immediate unemployment status.

In some areas academy recruits attend on their own dime, hoping that earning a police academy certification will land them a job with a police department or sheriff’s office. Paying your own way to attend a police academy is a roll of the dice that’s similar to the football draft, where outstanding players receive contracts while non-drafted players sometimes wind up as high school coaches or teachers. Fail a police academy and you may find yourself swinging a nightstick in a shopping mall.

Tuition and Sponsorships

Public Safety Academy tuition costs at Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC), a former home of the Writers’ Police Academy, is approximately $1,200 ($4,300 for out of state tuition). In addition, there’s an extra fee of approximately $1,100.00 for uniforms, textbooks, and supplies. However, recruits have the opportunity to  obtain a sponsorship from a N.C. law enforcement agency.

A sponsorship occurs when a department backs the recruit with an unofficial/unwritten intention of hiring the person once they’ve successfully completed the academy. No guarantees, though. Still, the college/academy will waive the tuition fee for department-sponsored recruits. But the recruits are required to pay the $1,100 uniform, books, and supply fees out of pocket.

*This system is in place in North Carolina and may not be an option in other states where recruits must already be employed by a law enforcement agency prior to attending a police academy.

Police Academy Firearms Training

Before moving forward, I’d like to for say, thanks to author Donnell Bell and her response to a police firearms training question posted on the fabulous Crimescene Writer Q&A forum. In fact, the question is one I often receive from writers so I thought I’d expand a bit on her absolutely correct answer.

The question and Donnell’s answer is the basis for today’s article. If you’d like to learn more about Crimescene Writer and to take advantage of the numerous experts there—law enforcement (state. local, FBI), firefighters, medical examiners, attorneys, etc.—who answer questions from writers, please do click the link above and sign up. You’ll be glad you did, I guarantee.

Next, please keep in mind that standards vary from state to state, city to city, county to county, and department to department. However, all firearms training taught to police officers boils down to safety, when to shoot and why you should or shouldn’t, laws regarding using deadly force, and achieving a successful score on the firing range. And again, SAFETY! SAFETY! SAFETY!

As many of you know, I served as a police officer, a deputy sheriff, a corrections officer, and finally as a police detective. Firearms training for Virginia corrections officers is a bit different than that of a law enforcement officer, but I’ll save that information for another time.

Today, I thought it would be nice to offer the complete training objectives of firearms training in Virginia as set by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). It is a minimum standard that is mandatory training for all officers. Academies may add to this standard but they may not cut corners by skipping steps.

Here are the minimum firearms training objectives. Please note that a successful score on the firing range is 70%. Officers there or in the other locations I’ve mentioned today are not required to shoot a 100% score.

Here’s a mystery for you to ponder. I won the award as top shooter in my academy class. My final score was 99%. There is a specific reason why I did not shoot 100% even though I could have done so, barring a sneeze or seizure at the time I pulled the trigger to fire the last round. Some of you may know why, but it is not something I’ll share in a public forum. Hmm …

Following the Virginia training objectives, for comparison, you’ll find those of Massachussetts, New Mexico, and Northern Virginia’s training academy. I’ve included the latter to illustrate that guidelines within the same state are different. The Northern Va. academy requires a higher range score than that of the state minimum.

This post is a bit lengthy so please bear with me and I believe you’ll find the information a bit useful and interesting. If not, well, I’ll see you tomorrow … 🙂

Off we go …

Police Academy Firearms Minimum Training Standards

Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS)

Firearms Training Objectives 

1. Given a written exercise, identify nomenclature of weapons. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

2. Given a practical exercise, demonstrate prescribed procedure for cleaning weapon. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.1.1. Identification of the correct terms to identify weapons and parts of weapons. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

7.1.2. Demonstration of prescribed procedure to prepare weapon for cleaning. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon) Remove magazine or empty cylinder Remove round from chamber Double check weapon to make sure it is empty

7.1.3. Identification of weapon cleaning equipment. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

7.1.4. Demonstration of the use of weapon cleaning equipment. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon) Field strip weapon Clean components Inspect for damage and imperfections Lubricate Reassemble Safely test for proper function

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Identification of the correct terms to identify weapons and parts of weapons. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

2. Demonstration of prescribed procedure to prepare weapon for cleaning. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

a. Remove magazine or empty cylinder

b. Remove round from chamber

c. Double check weapon to make sure it is empty

3. Identification of weapon cleaning equipment. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

4. Demonstration of the use of weapon cleaning equipment. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

a. Field strip weapon

b. Clean components

c. Inspect for damage and imperfections

d. Lubricate

e. Reassemble

f. Safely test for proper function

Performance Outcome 7.2.

Using proper hand grip and observation, draw department issued weapon from holster. (revolver or semi-automatic weapon)

Training Objectives Related to 7.2.

1. Given practical exercises, use a good and consistent combat grip with a safe and efficient draw from the holster following prescribed drawing techniques using the officer’s approved handgun and holster. (revolver or semi-automatic weapon)

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.2.1. Draw and fire

7.2.2. Draw to a ready position

7.2.3. Draw to a “cover mode” simulating the covering of a suspect together with the issuance of the verbal order “Police – Don’t Move!”

7.2.4. Using standing, kneeling, and prone positions

7.2.5. Use of covering and concealment while maintaining visual contact with the threat

7.2.6. Reloading while concentrated on the threat and not the weapon

7.2.7. Clear handgun stoppages

7.2.8. Reholster weapon

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Draw and fire

2. Draw to a ready position

3. Draw to a “cover mode” simulating the covering of a suspect together with the issuance of the verbal order “Police – Don’t Move!”

4. Using standing, kneeling and prone positions

5. Use of covering and concealment while maintaining visual contact with the threat

6. Reloading while concentrated on the threat and not the weapon

7. Clear handgun stoppages

8. Reholster weapon


a. Gripping: using sufficient strength to hold a weapon on a plane so that the projectile will travel on a line to the target

b. Lifting: having adequate strength to lift the weapon to eye level while maintaining safe control

c. Range of vision: should be such that a person can focus on one object (sights) and still see an image of the target

d. Strength: overall strength should be a minimum of being able to perform normal task without fatiguing quickly

e. Breathing: holding breath for a minimal time in order to complete the task of firing the weapon

f. Cover mode: finger outside the trigger guard until you are on target and have decided to fire

Performance Outcome 7.3.

Clear stoppage in semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. Demonstrate safe handling of weapons on the range and on and off duty.

Training Objectives Related to 7.3.

Given a practical exercise:

1. Demonstrate the techniques for clearing stoppages in pistols or revolvers.

2. Demonstrate safe handling of weapons on the range and how to do so on and off duty.

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.3.1. Techniques for clearing stoppages: Semi-automatic pistol Failure to fire Failure to feed Failure to eject Failure to extract Revolver When trigger is pulled and revolver does not fire When trigger gets tight and cylinder will not turn When there is a squib load

7.3.2. Demonstration of safe handling of weapons on the range and identification of safe handling of weapons on and off duty.

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Techniques for clearing stoppages:

a. Semi-automatic pistol

1. Failure to fire

2. Failure to feed

3. Failure to eject

4. Failure to extract

b. Revolver

1. When trigger is pulled and revolver does not fire

2. When trigger gets tight and cylinder will not turn

3. When there is a Squib load

2. Demonstration of safe handling procedures of weapon while on the range and identification of safe handling procedures of weapon on and off duty.

Performance Outcome 7.4.

Fire a hand gun in various combat situations using issued equipment.

Training Objectives Related to 7.4.

1. Fire the officer’s issued/approved weapon during daytime/low light and/or night time combat range exercises using issued/approved loading device, issued/approved holster and flashlight with 70% accuracy on two of the approved courses of fire.

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.4.1. Demonstrate dry firing and basic shooting principles.

7.4.2. Using proper marksmanship and reloading fundamentals, fire a minimum of 200 rounds with issued (or equal to this) ammunition in daylight conditions using issued/approved weapon prior to qualification.

7.4.3. Qualify on two of the below selected courses with approved targets under daylight conditions using issued (or equal to this) duty ammunition, weapon, duty belt and holster: Virginia Modified Double Action Course for Semi-automatic Pistols and Revolvers, 60 rounds, 7, 15, 25 yards shooting.  (See Appendix A shown below) Virginia Modified Combat Course I, 60 rounds, 25, 15, 7 yards shooting  (See Appendix B) Virginia Modified Combat Course II, 60 rounds, 25, 15, 7, 5, 3 yards shooting (See Appendix C) Virginia Qualification Course I, 50 rounds, 25 to 5 yards shooting (See Appendix D) Virginia Qualification Course II, 60 rounds, 3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix E) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course I, 50 rounds, 5 or 7, 25 yards shooting (See Appendix F) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course II, 36 rounds, 3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix G) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course III, 50 rounds, 1/3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix H) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course IV, 60 rounds, 1/3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix I) Virginia Tactical Qualification Course V, 50 rounds, 1/3 to 25 yards shooting (See Appendix J)

7.4.4. Fire a minimum of 25 rounds on a low light and/or a minimum of 25 rounds on a nighttime course for practice prior to qualification using the agency issued or approved handgun, duty holster and loading device. Fire a minimum of 25 rounds on a low light and/or a minimum of 25 rounds on a nighttime qualification course with a 70% qualification score on each course. Fire a minimum of 12 rounds with use of a flashlight in Appendix B or Appendix C above. Identify the advantages and disadvantages of three methods of flashlight use with a weapon. Identify the correct target threat by using flashlight techniques and weapon in hand. Low light and nighttime practice and qualifications courses with time limitations and distances will be established by the school, agency, or academy board. Fire from point shoulder positions, cover down positions and barricade positions. Fire using strong and weak hand as appropriate: Standing position Kneeling position Prone position Reload the weapon with emphasis on utilizing tactical reloads where appropriate Correct any weapon stoppages that may occur

7.4.5. Fire familiarization drills using a minimum of 50 rounds (10 per position) with issued (or equal to this) ammunition to include: Moving forward and backward (officer and/or target). Moving side to side (officer and/or target). Use of cover and concealment. Shove and shoot. Seated straight/90 degrees to simulate shooting from a vehicle.

Performance Outcome 7.5.

Secure weapons while off duty. (revolvers, semi-automatic weapons)

Training Objectives Related to 7.5.

1. Given a written exercise, identify reasons for and methods for avoiding firearms accidents while off duty.

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.5.1. Reasons for security Prevent injury and unauthorized access Minimize theft opportunity (separate ammunition from the weapons)

7.5.2. Methods for security Lock box Loaded Unloaded Trigger lock Unloaded Cable lock Unloaded Disassemble weapon

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Reasons for security

a. Prevent injury and unauthorized access

b. Minimize theft opportunity (separate ammunition from the weapons)

2. Methods for security

a. Lock box

1. Loaded

2. Unloaded

b. Trigger lock

1. Unloaded

c. Cable lock

1. Unloaded

d. Disassemble weapon

Performance Outcome 7.6.

Carry a firearm when off duty. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

Training Objectives Related to 7.6.

1. Given a written exercise, identify the factors to consider when carrying a firearm while off duty. (revolver, semi-automatic weapon)

Criteria: The trainee shall be tested on the following:

7.6.1. Identification that an officer must comply with department policy relating to carrying a firearm while off duty and qualifying with the off duty firearm.

7.6.2. Identification of statutes that regulate the carrying of firearms while off duty.

7.6.3. Identification of the impact that alcohol consumption may have on judgment relating to use of firearms while off duty.

7.6.4. Identification of conditions that should be maintained while carrying a firearm off duty.

Lesson Plan Guide: The lesson plan shall include the following:

1. Identification that an officer must comply with department policy relating to carrying a firearm while off duty and qualifying with the off duty firearm.

2. Identification of statutes that regulate the carrying of firearms while off duty.

3. Identification of the impact that alcohol consumption may have on judgment relating to use of firearms while off duty.

4. Identification of conditions that should be maintained while carrying a firearm off duty

a. Concealed

b. Cecure (retaining device)

c. Accessible

d. Law enforcement identification with weapon

e. Jurisdiction

f. Training

5. Identification of response to being stopped by on-duty officer:

a. Upon being challenged, members will remain motionless unless given a positive directive otherwise.

b. Members will obey the commands of the challenging member, whether or not he/she is in uniform. This may entail submission to arrest.

c.  Members will not attempt to produce identification unless and until so instructed.

d. If circumstances permit, members may verbally announce their identity and state the location of their badge and credentials.

e. Members should ask the challenger to repeat any directions or questions that are unclear and should never argue with challenger.

f. Challenged members will follow all instructions received until recognition is acknowledged.

Basic Firing Range Course for Academy Recruits


APPENDIX A – 60 rounds, 7, 15, 25 yards shooting.


Targets- B-21, B-21X, B-27, Q

60 ROUNDS, 7 – 25 YARDS

Qualification Score: 70%

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

PHASE 1 – 7 YARD LINE: With loaded magazine, on command fire 1 round in 2 seconds or fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds, make weapon safe, holster, repeat until 6 rounds have been fired.

1. On command draw and fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds, make weapon safe, holster, repeat until 6 rounds have been fired.

2. On command draw and fire 6 rounds strong hand and 6 rounds weak hand in 20 seconds for semi-auto and 30 seconds for revolver, make weapon safe and holster.

PHASE 2 -15 YARD LINE: Point Shoulder Position

1. On command draw and fire 1 round in 2 seconds or 2 rounds in 3 seconds, make weapon safe, holster, repeat until 6 rounds have been fired.

2. On command draw and fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds, holster and repeat until 6 rounds have been fired.

3. On command draw and fire 6 rounds in 12 seconds, make weapon safe and holster.

PHASE 3 – 25 YARD LINE: On command fire 6 rounds from prone, 6 rounds from kneeling and 6 rounds from standing until 18 rounds have been fired in 75 seconds for semi-auto, strong hand; for revolver,

90 seconds, strong hand. The order of position and use of cover/concealment and decocking is optional with the instructor.

SCORING – B21, B21X targets – use indicated K value with a maximum 300 points divided by 3 to obtain percent.

B27 target – 8,9,10,X rings = 5 points, 7 ring = 4 points, hits on silhouette = 3 points divided by 3 to obtain percent.

Q target – 5 points inside the bottle, 3 points outside the bottle on the target. Divide by 3 to obtain percent.

Louisiana Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST)

Basic Firearms Qualification:

  1. On a 25-yard range, equipped with POST approved P-1 targets, the student, given a pistol or revolver, holster and 240 rounds of ammunition, will fire the POST firearms qualification course at least four times. Scores must be averaged and the student must:
    1. Fire all courses in the required stage time;
    2. Use the correct body position for each course of fire;
    3. Fire the entire course using double action only, except in case of single action only semi-automatic pistols;
    4. Fire no more than the specified number of rounds per stage;
    5. Fire each course at a distance not appreciably lesser nor greater than that specified;
    6. Achieve an average score of not less than 96 out of a possible 120, which is 80% or above;
    7. Have all targets graded and final score computed by a POST-certified firearms instructor.

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee

Annual Qualifications:

      1. Each officer shall successfully complete the MPTC Basic Qualification Course for each weapon at least once per year with:
        1. A minimum score of 80% and
        2. 100% round accountability. (See below for illustration of MPTC target.)
      2. While duty ammunition is not required for the qualification course, the caliber used forqualification shall be identical to that used for duty ammunition.
      3. The target used for qualification shall be the standard MPTC-approved target. (See belowfor approved targets.)
      4. The number of rounds needed for each weapon system is as follows:

Semiautomatic pistols = 50

Revolvers = 50

Patrol rifles = 50

Shotguns = 25

Less-lethal shotgun = 8

Less-lethal 40mm = 6

Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy

Performance-based objectives for Firearms Training and Driver Training are tested in the classroom and at the firearms and driver training ranges, and include both written examination questions and practical performance based testing. Recruits are required to score a minimum of 70% in each component. If a recruit fails to meet minimum standards after two attempts, the recruit will be scheduled for re-training at a later time. The recruit will receive remedial training and will be given up to two additional attempts to meet minimum standards.

New Mexico Public Safety and Law Enforcement

Qualification course:  Day (50 round course) – A minimum score of 80% is required.

  1. Qualification course:  Night (25 round course) – A minimum score of 80% is required.  Low-light conditions would include parking lights from vehicles, naturally existing light, or other light that is just enough to identify a threat.

Finally, officers are required to maintain their shooting skills and must re-qualify annually.

Many officers enjoy shooting and do so regularly at firing ranges. Some departments provide ammunition for extra training, if their budget allows. If not, officers fund their own practice time.

It’s not unusual to see officers reload ammunition at home on their own time. Doing so is for target practice and results in a substantial monetary savings. However, only department issued ammunition may be carried while on duty and in off-duty weapons.

Police officers must attend training academies where they learn the basics of the job. In Virginia, for example, it is required that new officers receive a minimum of 480 hours of basic academy training that includes (to name only a few subjects):

  • Professionalism
  • Legal
  • Communication
  • Patrol
  • Investigations
  • Defensive tactics and use of force
  • Weapons, including firearms, baton, chemical, etc.
  • Driver training

The list sounds simple but, believe me, the training is grueling and physically and mentally challenging and demanding. It’s also quite stressful because if a rookie happens to flunk any portion of the academy they are immediately returned to their department where it’s likely their employment will be terminated.

Of course, academies and individual departments may add to the basic curriculum, and they often do (mine was longer), but they may not eliminate any portion of the training that’s mandated by the Department of Justice and/or the state.

In addition to the basic police academy, in order to “run radar,” officers are required to successfully complete a compulsory minimum training standards and requirements course. This course is specifically for law-enforcement officers who utilize radar or an electrical or microcomputer device to measure the speed of motor vehicles.

The Basic Speed Measurement Operator Training requirements include the following:

  1. Attend a DCJS approved speed measurement operator’s course
  2. Pass the speed measurement testing
  3. Complete Field Training

Virginia State Police Basic Training

Academy training for the Virginia State Police (VSP) is much more intense and lengthy than that of local academies.

VSP academy training includes 1,536 hours of instruction covering more than 100 sessions that range  from laws of arrest, search and seizure, defensive tactics, motor vehicle code, criminal law, and much more.

A troopers basic training is completed in four phases.

  • Phase I – The first 12 days are at the Academy at which time the students receive abbreviated training.
  • Phase II – Pre-Academy Field Training—up to four months—at which time the students ride with a FTO.
  • Phase III – Return to the academy for 26 weeks of Basic Training, completing both classroom and practical courses.
  • Phase IV – Following graduation from the academy, troopers complete an additional six to eight weeks of field training with a FTO.

What Happens After Local Officers Graduate From the Academy?

Once local police and sheriff’s deputies complete the minimum of twelve weeks of academy training (remember, some are longer), the law enforcement officers are then required to successfully complete a minimum of 100 hours of approved field training. This is on the job training, working in the field under the supervision of a certified field training officer (FTO). FTOs, by the way, must attend and successfully complete a training program that qualifies them to train officers in the field.

The mandatory minimum course for FTOs shall include a minimum of 32 hours of training and must include each of the following subject matter:

a. Field training program and the field training officer.

b. Field training program delivery and evaluation.

c. Training liability.

d. Characteristics of the adult learner.

e. Methods of instruction.

f. Fundamentals of communication.

g. Written test.

During the field training portion of a rookie’s beginning days on the street, their FTOs are evaluating their performance while at the same time protecting them and the public from harm. Working as an FTO is a tough job. I know, I’ve done it. You’re forever watching to make certain the rookies do not accidentally violate the rights of citizens, and you’re constantly on high alert, watching for the unexpected. This is because you’re responsible for everything that could happen. And, you’re watching for two people instead of one.

FTOs typically allow rookies to get their hands dirty by handling calls, getting the feel of driving the patrol car on city streets or county roads, conduct arrests, etc. They serve as a crutch, to prevent missteps. They’re leaders and they’re teachers. They are the final barrier to the officers going out on their own, a day most new officers salivate for in anticipation.

That first night alone in your very own patrol car is a highly desired moment. It the official sign that you’ve made it. You are finally a police officer. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of boxes that must be checked off by the FTO.

During the field training period, each rookie must demonstrate that they know the streets in their patrol areas. They must know local and state laws and ordinances. They must know the working of the court system and how to effectively interact with local prosecutors. And, well, below is a list of topics that rookies must know better than the backs of their hands before their FTO officially signs the paperwork releasing them from the training.

  • Department Policies, Procedures, and Operations (General Law Enforcement)
  • Local Government Structure and Local Ordinances
  • Court Systems, Personnel, Functions and Locations
  • Resources and Referrals
  • Records and Documentation
  • Administrative Handling of Mental Cases
  • Local Juvenile Procedures
  • Detention Facilities and Booking Procedures
  • Facilities and Territory Familiarization
  • Miscellaneous

Academy instructors aren’t simply any Joe or Sally off the street who may know a little something about police work because they’ve every episode of COPS, twice. Instead, academy instructors in Virginia are well-trained and must meet a minimum standard set by the state/DOJ.

Yes, academy instructors are required to attend specialized certification classes for the specific subjects they teach. And, instructors who train/teach and certify other instructors must become certified to teach those high level classes. They are then certified instructor-trainers.

I was a certified instructor-trainer for Defensive Tactics and CPR, and I was a certified instructor for Firearms, Officer Survival, CPR, and Basic and Advanced Life Support.

Advanced Classes for Officers, and Writers

Officer training never ends. Laws change and tactics and techniques evolve. Academies and agencies across the U.S. offer numerous specialized training opportunities. A great example of such educational opportunities are the courses offered at Sirchie, the location of the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy’s special event, MurderCon.

Each year, on a continuing basis, Sirchie offers advanced classes for law enforcement officers. If some of these sound familiar to you, well, they should, because they were made available to attendees of the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy. It was an extremely rare opportunity for writers to have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and train at such a prestigious facility and to learn from some of the top instructors in the world.

Classes presented at Sirchie, for law enforcement officers, are as follows:

  • Clandestine Grave Search & Recovery

    SIRCHIE is offering a 4 day “hands-on” training class on searching for and properly investigating and recovering remains from a clandestine grave site. The legal term corpus delicti me…
  • Phase 1 – Footwear Impression – Detection, Recovery, Identification Training

    Footwear impression evidence is the most overlooked evidence at crime scenes. Criminals will often wear gloves or wipe down objects that they touch at crime scenes but rarely do they remove their s…
  • Bloodstain Pattern Documentation Class

    Throughout the United States and certainly in smaller departments, the crime scene technician faces the complexities of homicide scenes without the proper support or training. Like all forensi…
  • Mastering the IAI Latent Print Exam Class

    Minimum requirements for the class: Each student must have at least 1 year of Latent print experience to be accepted in the class.  Background: Examiners who are preparing to take the L…
  • Digital Device Forensics

    With over 9 Billion wireless subscriptions worldwide as of 2016, every criminal investigation involves information that can be captured from a digital device, including phones and tablets. Understa…
  • Latent Palm Print Comparison Class

    Minimum Requirements for the class: Each student must have attended and completed a Basic Latent Fingerprint Comparison Course to be accepted in the Advanced Latent Palm Print Comparison Cou…
  • Evidence Collection and Processing Training

    Our Evidence Collection and Processing Training Program provides law enforcement professionals and crime scene investigators with hands on training using forensic tools that will help to execute th…
  • Drone Forensics

    This 5 day course is designed to take the investigator deep into the world of Drone Forensics. The use of Drones is growing rapidly and expanding to criminal enterprises and terrorist organizations…
  • Comprehensive Advanced Latent Print Comparison Course

    How proficient are your individual comparison skills as pertaining to latent print casework? Are erroneous exclusions a problem in your skill set? If you are a manager are erroneous exclusions a problem in your latent print work unit? This class was developed to help improve latent comparison competency and knowledge whether you are already a Certified Latent Print Examiner or if you are preparing to take the exam in the near future. A broad and exhaustive level of complex latent print exercises were carefully compiled to improve the level of expertise for examiners. You will not find another class like this one anywhere.

So Much Training and So Many Required Certifications, but …

Law enforcement officers in Virginia (I’m not certain about other states) shall satisfactorily complete the Compulsory Minimum Training Standards and Requirements within 12 months of the date of hire or appointment as a law-enforcement officer.

Take a moment to re-read the line above and then let it sink in that officers may work for up to one full year before they attend a basic police academy. That’s potentially 12 months of driving a patrol car and making arrests without a single second of formal training.

Sure, most departments would never dream of allowing an untrained officer work the streets without close and direct supervision. However, I’ve seen it done and I have personal knowledge of deputy sheriffs who patrolled an entire county, alone, for nearly 365 days prior to attending any formal police training. I know this to be so because I was one of those deputy sheriffs.

Believe me, it’s an odd feeling to carry a loaded gun while driving like a bat out of hell with lights and siren squalling at full yelp during the pursuit of a heavily armed suspect, all while not having clue what you should and shouldn’t do when or if you catch the guy.

When I think about it today I realize how foolish it was for my boss to allow us to work under those conditions.

Author Melinda Lee – WPA firearms training

Thanks to the Writers’ Police Academy, many writers have received far more training than I had during my first year on the job. Actually, many writers who’ve attended the WPA have received more advanced training than many of today’s law enforcement officers.





Here’s a recap of past Writers’ Police Academy events condensed in an ad for the 2018 WPA.



It’s been well over two decades since I and my narcotics K-9 partner attended our first day of school. We’d spend the next sixteen weeks together learning how to locate hidden drugs. However, my new partner was no stranger to the job since he’d already served as a narcotics dog with the U.S. Border Patrol. I’d served as a narcotics officer for quite a while, both undercover and as a detective. But this, having a four-legged partner, was a first for me.

We left home early that day, both freshly bathed with bellies full and hearts thumping with excitement.

I drove, of course, while the dog rode in a large crate secured in the rear compartment. I sensed his excitement during the ride by the way his thick tail steadily beat against the sides of the container.

When I turned off the main road, Midlothian Turnpike, just outside of Richmond Va., it was déjà vu all over again. Because directly in front of me was the training academy of the Virginia State Police. It is there where Va. State Police recruits attend 30 weeks of academic, physical, and practical training. After graduation from the academy, the new troopers report to their individual duty assignments across Virginia where each of them are required to spend an additional six weeks with a field training officer while learning their new patrol area.

The day my drooling pooch and I arrived the basic academy was in full swing, with recruits going about the daily grind associated with their training. I believe there were approximately 70 -80 recruits attending the academy at the time and they must have been nearing the end because a few dozen brand new, shiny blue and gray Va. State Police patrol cars were lined up in rows at the rear of the property.

I recalled the butterflies-in-the-stomachs experienced by recruits when they, as did I, saw waiting patrol cars, knowing they’d soon be assigned one, a car that would soon become their mobile office and sanctuary from evil. Seeing them parked there was also a sign that they’d made it. They’d endured 30 weeks of running, exercising, shooting, classroom and driver training, and running, running, running. Many were in the best physical shape they’d been in their entire lives. Their brains were overflowing with new knowledge and their nerve-endings pulsed with the electricity that fuels all rookie cops.

But, instead of heading to the main training academy buildings, I turned to the left and aimed my car to the area designated for K-9 training. This portion of the academy featured two sets of kennels capable of housing many dogs. One set was designated for patrol dogs, the mean and nasty biters. The other was a long, double row of covered kennels where the narcotics and explosive dogs would sleep and eat for the next 16 weeks.

I checked in with the lieutenants in charge and was assigned a kennel for my dog along with a stainless steel food dish and a rubber water bucket. A trooper showed me where the dog food was stored and told me that I was responsible for daily cleaning and hosing and scrubbing my dog’s quarters. We each rotated weekend duties, the feeding, watering, and cleaning of all kennels.

I would spend my nights in the barracks where my wakeup call was at 5 a.m.—lights on and a loud buzzer followed by the door being flung open by a sergeant who quite enjoyed shouting. This joyful eye-opener was immediately followed by barracks inspection, a quick shower, shave, and breakfast with the other K-9 handlers-in-training, as well as the academy recruits.

Our first morning was by far the easiest day of training. We spent it outdoors listening to our trainer, a lieutenant who provided a tour of the K-9 training grounds—obstacle courses, large and smaller fenced fields, classrooms, and even a building equipped as a letter and package processing facility, complete with long conveyor belts. This building was where we’d train our dogs to search packages as they breezed by on the conveyors and when stacked in tall, long rows. Yes, the dogs actually walked and ran on the conveyors while packages zipped by their keen noses.

K-9 Handlers Are On The “Dumb End” of the Leashes

The lieutenant then explained what we could expect during the next three months. He made sure we were aware that drug dogs are typically hyper and that they have four legs and prefer to use the full capability of those limbs. And that it was up to us to keep up with the animals, in spite of our handicap of having only two legs.

We were in no way to slow down the forward progress of our dogs. In other words, we were expected to run every day all day, without exception, for the duration of our training. If our dogs ran, we ran. And only when the dogs took a break were allowed to do the same.  Training for the dogs was fun. It’s a game to them and their end goal is to be rewarded for playing. Their treat … more playtime, and we were their sources of entertainment. Tug-of-war with a rolled up towel was their favorite activity, one that was enjoyed whenever they found hidden drugs. Therefore, they searched frantically knowing that if they succeeded they’d enjoy a session of towel-fun-time.

The lieutenant made certain that we knew to trust the noses and intelligence of our dogs, and that we were on the dumb end of the leash. Never try to force a dog to alert on something when you suspect it to contain narcotics. Always allow the dog do the work. They know what they’re doing. “Handlers are ALWAYS on the dumb end of the leash!” I heard that sentence at least a thousand times during the academy training

Run here, there, and everywhere!

I wondered why in the world, as a police detective who had his own air-conditioned office, a comfortable chair and substantial desk, clothing allowance, and who rarely had to run anywhere (that’s what rookies were for) … why did I ever request to attend this sort of punishment training. But no … I had to have my very own narcotics K-9. A dog who ran like The Roadrunner and was as hyper as Speedy Gonzales, the cartoon mouse.

We trained at the Richmond, Va. airport, searching for drugs in all passenger jets and luggage. We traveled to secret and quite secure government three letter agency facilities where we searched and cleared areas. Our transportation for those trips was a marked state police van pulling a long double-decker trailer containing forty individual compartments for our dogs—four rows of ten compartments, ten on top of ten on each side.

We ran everywhere we went and the dogs loved it. By the final week of training I’d lost 25 pounds.

The K-9 handler’s training academy was far tougher, physically, than regular basic police training. Not even close, actually. But I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. And, as a bonus, I had one of the best partners in the world.

And then, a couple of years later, I did it again. I had to have a patrol dog, a dog who tracked and was extremely skilled at suspect apprehension. So back to the state police academy I went, for another 16 weeks. This time, though, the training involved fast dogs with large, sharp teeth.

Running came easier this time around because the motivation to do so was greater. Instead of having our dogs on leashes out in front, we were given a head start before a handler sent a barking and snarling K-9 to bring us to the ground, by force. We also had to run for miles to hide somewhere so the dogs could find us. Tracking us across those distances was a fun game for them. For me, not so much.

By the way, bite suits are extremely hot and heavy, and some of the larger dogs had teeth that were able to penetrate them. I still have a few leftover scars to prove it.

Again, though, I’d gained another great friend.

Both dogs lived at our home.

The drug dog, a black lab, was funny and playful. The patrol dog was a very large Rottweiler who feared nothing. Well, he was a bit intimidated by our toy poodle, but tolerated her.

The dogs were a joy have in our household, all three of them. When I left police work the two police dogs retired along with me.

Now, sadly, all three are gone.

The 25 pounds is back, though, and then some.


Have you hear the rumor? You know the one, that some people are simply not wired to be cops.Shocking, isn’t it?

There, I’ve said it. And and I’m not spreading gossip because, sadly, it’s true.

Ask any police officer and they’ll tell you that it takes a special kind of person to successfully wear a gun and badge, and to live and work in a manner that coincides with their sworn oath.

Sure, “law dawgs” come in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, and from varying backgrounds. But there was one officer who, for numerous reasons, shouldn’t have made it past the interview stage, let alone advance to actually working the streets. This pint-sized, woefully inadequate cop was quickly nicknamed “The Little Cop Who Couldn’t.”

Before I delve into the tale of the cop who had to sit on a pillow to see above the steering wheel in their patrol car, we need to assign a name to the officer—a gender-neutral name to protect the identity of the thumbnail version of a real police officer. By doing so, it’ll allow you to paint your own mental picture of him/her. The name I choose is Pat (could go either way with this one – remember Pat on SNL?).

The story goes something like this…

Pat was a unique police officer who stood at a towering 4’10” tall, with shoes on. Not a single supply company stocked police uniforms in toddler sizes, so Pat’s clothing had to be specially made and ordered from a company located in a remote corner of None Such County.

Even then, with None Such’s finest clothing maker assigned to the task, a good bit of onsite tailoring was required, snipping here and stitching there, to insure a proper fit. To provide a better picture of the size of this person, had someone bronzed Pat’s Bates work footwear they’d have looked a lot like “baby’s first shoes.”

During basic training, one of the practical exercises for the class was to direct traffic at a busy city intersection. Trainees were required to be in full uniform for the exercise, including hats. Well, they just don’t make police hats that small, so Pat borrowed one from a fellow classmate.

The hat was the thing that sent the rest the class over the edge. The minuscule officer looked like a kid playing dress-up in adult clothing.

Not the actual Pat.

We each took a turn in the intersection, stopping traffic  to permit left turns, right turns, and allowing cars to travel forward. We repeated the process until our instructor felt comfortable with our ability to control traffic flow.

Then it was Pat’s turn. So the recruit in the intersection, a full-sized officer, successfully stopped traffic in all four directions to allow Pat to assume the position in the middle of the street.

Then, with arms outstretched and a short blast from a whistle, Pat then sharply and crisply motioned for one lane of traffic to move forward. And, for a brief moment, all was going well until Pat gave the whistle another tweet to stop the oncoming traffic and then turned to the left to start the next lane of traffic moving. Well, Pat’s cantaloupe-size head turned left, rotating inside the big-man-size cap. But, instead of moving in sync with the turning head, the too-large hat remained facing forward. The entire class erupted in laughter, as did many of the drivers who were absolutely confused about what they should do next.

Our instructor rushed out into the ensuing traffic jam to straighten out the mess and calm the drivers who used their car horns to blast their displeasure. Pat, in a moment of self-induced blindness because the hat had slipped even further down the face, totally blocking any hope of seeing, well, anything. Unfortunately, during the melee Pat dropped the whistle onto the pavement and when attempting to retrieve it, lost the hat. Of course the swift evening wind gusts sent it rolling into the lines of moving cars and trucks.

Pat once responded to a shoplifting call—an 11-year-old girl swiped a candy bar from a local K-Mart—and just as Pat was about to enter the store the little kid ran outside. Pat grabbed the little darlin’ who then pushed Pat down to the pavement. Pat got up and grabbed the 70-ish-pound kid and it was on.

According to bystanders, who, by the way, called 911 to report an officer needing assistance, said the child was absolutely beating the tar out of Pat. One witness told responding officers that Pat closely resembled one of those blow-up clown punching bags that pops back upright after each blow.

Then there was the time when Pat’s fellow officers had responded to a large fight outside a local bar. The dispatcher cautioned that weapons were involved and that several people were already injured and down. Pat was in the middle of answering a domestic he-said/she-said when the call came in.

When officers responding to the brawl saw the massive crowd they immediately called for backup, which, at that point, meant calling in sheriff’s deputies and state troopers since every available officer, except Pat, was already on the scene. The fight was a tough battle and officers and bad guys were basically going at it, toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow. Officers were outnumbered 4-to-1, at least.

And then they heard it … a lone siren wailing and yelping in the distance, like the sound of a ship’s horn mournfully floating across vast salt water marshes at low tide. Soon, intermittent flashes of blue light began to reflect from brick storefronts and plate glass windows. And then, out of the darkness appeared Pat’s patrol car, bearing down on the parking lot and the fight that was well underway.

File:London Polizei-Einsatz.gif

Pat didn’t bother stopping at the curb. Instead, the teeny-tiny officer who, if you recall, had to sit on a pillow to see over the steering wheel (no, I’m not kidding), pulled the car directly into the parking lot beside the action, flung open the car door, and stepped out. Well, sort of.

Pat’s pistol somehow had become entangled in the seat belt, which sort of reeled Pat back into the car like a Yo-Yo on the upswing. Pat’s Maglite hit the pavement, coming apart and spilling batteries in all sorts of directions. The pillow fell out of the car and slid beneath the vehicle. And the hat … Pat had donned the cop/bus driver hat, which, of course remained motionless while Pat’s head spun around like a lighthouse beacon as he/she surveyed the scene.

Suddenly, as if a magic spell had been cast, the fight stopped, with everyone turning to watch “The Pat Show” unfold. Even the bad guys chuckled at the ridiculousness before them—Pat on hands and knees retrieving lost gear and, of course, the pillow. But, at least the fight was over.

By the way, Pat’s hands were so small that the department had to purchase a pistol that’s a bit smaller than standard cop issue. However, Pat’s index finger was still too short to reach the trigger. So he/she learned to shoot using his/her middle finger when firing the sidearm. Didn’t matter, because Pat failed to shoot a satisfactory score during the first annual weapons qualification.

So, I guess the true test of becoming a police officer is not how strong the desire or how big the heart, it’s how well the head fits the hat. And, of course, you must be “this tall” to drive a police car.


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.

New Picture (1)

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 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).