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After the police academy: 3 ways new cops can stay ahead of the game

Congratulations! You survived the police academy where you spent long days combining the academics of law school with the physical training of fight prep. You sacrificed time with family and friends, and made the metamorphosis from civilian to police officer. Well, almost.

Now you have to get through your field training program. Every police department’s FTO program differs in length and intensity. You will need to learn your department’s “way of doing things” such as policies, procedures and general orders, as well as navigate around your jurisdiction. It’s important that you focus on those things and learn as much as you can. However, you should not neglect your physical fitness and subject control skills during this critical phase of your career.

Keep training, keep growing and make a difference.

Now is the time for you to set the tone of your career. Will you allow complacency to creep in? Start putting on a few pounds? Become a donut connoisseur? Or will you be physically fit, proactive, competent with your hands and tools, and committed to make a difference in your community?

The best advice I can give you to ensure you have a safe and effective law enforcement career is to not rely on others for your self-improvement and growth. Here are a few things YOU need to do for yourself.


You are fresh out of the academy and in the best shape of your life after all the 0530 PT sessions and intensive subject control training. Do not let that go. Build on the habits you established in the academy and make it your life style.

Physical fitness will not only help you during foot pursuits and physical encounters with suspects, but it has positive correlations with emotional and psychological health and well-being. Working out is a healthy way to cope with the stress of the job. But what type of workout?

Anything is better than nothing, but something you enjoy that also mimics your work duties is ideal. First, if you don’t enjoy the workout, you are less likely to stick with it.

Second, the closer the movements and energy systems utilized in the workouts are to your job duties (foot pursuits, fighting with suspects, and pulling bodies out of cars and the occasional burning house), the better. Experiment a bit. Put together a running crew, see if you can get a lifting buddy, or take up an amateur sport. If you have a partner who is committed to working out, you will both hold each other accountable and stick with the training.


There is a wide array of schools focusing on different aspects of police training. Such schools range from interview and interrogation, to tactical encounters and room clearing. Your continuing education will keep the job fresh and exciting for you.

If your department is struggling with budget issues, train on your own time. This will not only improve your effectiveness as a police officer, it will help you network with like-minded officers who are committed to improving themselves through training. That connection can be a positive force in your police career. It will remind you that there are a lot of officers who do more than “punch a clock.” They want to improve their communities by improving themselves. Those are the police officers you need to surround yourself with and emulate.


As a martial arts instructor, I am often asked, Which martial art is best for police officers?”

There are many styles of martial arts, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

What police officers need is a martial art that incorporates striking, standing grappling, wrestling and ground grappling. Threats in policing are extremely dynamic so you need a martial art that allows you to feel comfortable and competent in all the areas mentioned above.

Avoid a martial art that makes you a formidable stand-up fighter but a fish out of water on the ground, or vice versa.

A combination of mixed martial arts – which has the most street applicable techniques in all areas of fighting (striking, wrestling/clinch and ground grappling) – paired with something that focuses heavily on joint manipulation – such as Hapkido or Aikido – offers a balanced approach

The atmosphere at the martial arts training facility is as vital as the martial art style itself. The school needs to be police friendly. Ask around and see where other police officers train. Moreover, like law enforcement, martial arts is often studded with type A personalities. A school with too much “ego” can make for an uncomfortable learning environment. Find a place with humble and kind instructors who are also competent in their areas of study.

Keep training, keep growing and make a difference.


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