Not everyone can be a sworn Police Officer in a big city. Not everyone in law enforcement wants to, but if a guy/gal chooses to become an arresting officer on the beat, they will need to complete a challenging six months of physical and academic instruction as part of the hiring process.
Cop shows on TV often show patrol officers chasing down suspects or knocking down doors at drug busts, but we rarely get to look at what happens before they ever go on duty for the first time or are allowed to drive those patrol cars.
There are over 600 Police Academies in the U.S. and each state has its own regulations. In some areas, candidates apply directly to an Academy and if accepted, pay their own tuition, take the classes, then hope that they can get hired by a Police Department – that route is just like at any other higher education institution. In other cases, candidates apply directly to an agency or city, and then if accepted based on experience and education, attend the city’s or agency’s own Academy.
The training that the candidates receive is a lot like military basic training – a mix of physical and classroom activities preparing them to think on their feet, improve their reaction time, make responsible decisions when in the line of fire, all while protecting the people they serve.
So, what does a recruit need to do to be able to pass the physical? It varies from state to state, but here is an updated list of three timed physical qualification tests that New Jersey State Police use as part of their overall score for the applicants:
*Push Ups Purpose? to see how strong your upper body is and what kind of endurance you have.
You have two minutes to do as many (correctly executed) pushups as you can. A good score is around 40 pushups which earns 6 points. That’s 40 pushups in two minutes. They don’t count the ones where your knees hit the floor. You fail if you complete less than 18.
*Sit Ups Purpose? to see how strong your abs are.
You have two minutes to do as many situps as you can, with fingers locked behind the head. A good attempt is about 45 situps, to earn 6 points. In two minutes. You fail with less than 20 completed.
*1.5 Mile Run Purpose? How good is your cardio?
How fast can you run the mile and a half? The best times are 11.5 minutes (or less) to earn 7 points. You fail this section if it takes you longer than 14.27 minutes to run the distance.
The applicants for this academy must earn at least 15 points in order to pass, and must get at least 1 point in any given area, no matter how well he/she does in the other three. So, if you’re great at situps, but can’t run the 1.5 mile to save your life? You fail the whole test. Some Police Departments allow you to take their version of this test again, but if you fail the second time, you have to go back for more training. As in, repeat the entire 6 month program.
Why is it necessary to do all this? Let’s say the suspect flees the scene, you are in hot pursuit on foot through crowds on the sidewalk, around corners, and through neighborhoods you may not know. After you catch the suspect, you have to hold him/her down while you cuff him, and keep him secured until backup arrives to take him to jail. And, if there are guns involved, you have to keep your cool, avoid getting shot, still do the chasing and still catch the suspect. You’d better be in great shape if you want to go home in one piece at the end of your shift.
By the way, the photo shows the class running in the rain. Yes, training is conducted in the rain. Crime and bad accidents don’t stop in bad weather, so cops don’t either.
*Photo taken by Patti Phillips in Guilford County, NC.
Criminals who tie their victims up during the commission of a crime frequently use duct tape for the job. That duct tape is almost always full of prints that get embedded into the tape. It’s practically impossible to manipulate and tear the tape while wearing gloves (I tried this once and the gloves got so stuck to the tape that I threw the resulting mess away), so the crook leaves prints while unrolling and tearing the tape. Even if he has wiped the smooth surface of the tape clean to cover his identity, the sticky side can’t be wiped without taking away the sticky. Balls of tape tossed aside by a suspect have been processed successfully for prints, but first the tape had to be released from itself.
What to do? Drop lots of a 2% chloroform tape release agent on the area where the two pieces of tape meet. Two people need to work together on this – one person places the drops continuously while the other person pulls the tape apart. The ends of the tape should then be folded over (about ¼”) and the tape flattened for 24 hours before doing anything else to it.
After 24 hours, adhesive-side developer should be applied to the sticky side of the duct tape, allowed to sit for a few minutes, then rinsed off. The prints are clearly visible, can be photographed, covered with clear tape to protect them, viewed under an Optical Comparator, entered into the system, and sent off to AFIS.
Up until recently, we could not collect decent prints from the dashboard of a getaway car in a reasonable length of time. Most car and truck dashboards have a slightly bumpy surface, more or less because it’s a selling point to non-criminal types – supposedly the pebbled surfaces mean no more pesky fingerprints to clean off if you’re a mom transporting kids after school. Sheila says the juice spills just get buried in the grooves.
But, it’s a potential fingerprint heaven for the CSIs who need to process the abandoned bank heist car. Think about it. If you press your hand onto a dashboard, your skin (with all the loops and whorls and arches and oils) is also pressing into the crevices of the pebbled surface. The problem is that a straight gel lift or hinge lifter will not pick up the prints effectively or may only pick up the top of the print.
But, the investigator sees the possible print and doesn’t want to lose the opportunity to catch the crook. The answer in the past was to dust the likely area with magnetic fingerprint powder, then apply a Blue Glue gel and wait for the gel to cure before lifting it off the dash – about five hours. FIVE hours? The crook is getting away! No time to wait!
These days, the preferred lifting product (after applying the magnetic powder to enhance the print) is a transparent liquid silicone (PVS200 – polyvinyl siloxane), applied with an extruder gun. It flows down into the crevices, dries in six minutes, and gets into every bit of the print. After the polyvinyl dries, it can be lifted, and then placed on a backing card to preserve the print. At that point, it can be placed under an Optical Comparator, photographed, and sent off to AFIS for an ID/comparison.
This epoxy is not good for every surface (it rips paper, etc) but is very good for pitted, bumpy surfaces like alligator skin and dashboards. Gotcha!
Planning to become a crime scene investigator? Then remember to collect the balls of duct tape tossed on the floor or in the garbage cans at the crime scene. Almost definitely, a great source for prints. And don’t forget your extruder gun!
*Photos taken by Patti Phillips at the Sirchie Education and Training facility in Youngsville, NC.
For more information about Sirchie and its products for the law enforcement community, please visit www.Sirchie.com.
The doc said that while my gunshot wounds finish healing, I’m supposed to start walking in the neighborhood to change up my routine. And get this – he wants me to do 10,000 steps every day. Not exactly cross training, but at least I won’t be staring at the walls all the time like with the treadmill in the cellar. Sheila must have snitched about me not using it every day. 2200 steps to a mile for me – I’m 5’ 10” – so my 10,000 steps would be about 4.5 miles. I do a little over three miles in an hour on the treadmill, so this didn’t seem to be a stretch.
The weather is nicer these days, so I get to chat with the neighbors I haven’t seen since before all the snow. I even met the two new families that moved in down the block. Nice people, great kids.
Sheila joined me yesterday and wanted to try the jogging track in the neighborhood park. We usually drive on the road that connects two major streets on either side of the busy park, and had never walked the heavily wooded dirt track. You know me – I’m up for adventure as long as there is a cold sweet tea or Guinness waiting at the end.
The walk was great, but as we got deeper into the woods, I mentioned to Sheila that it was a perfect spot for body dumping. There were plenty of ditches and mounds that looked suspicious to me. She told me that I had an active imagination.
Here’s the thing. If a killer needs a place get rid of the evidence, once he transports the body to a remote location, it may be months before people come across it. He only needs access by footpath for the heavy lifting, and then he (or a very strong she) can leave the path and toss the body into the woods. Insects, wild animals, and the weather would take care of getting rid of the identifying features, so even if the body is discovered a month or two after the murder, it would take a great deal of time to ID the body.
Sadly, I don’t have an overactive imagination.
A case in NJ: a woman was discovered by ATV riders in Pemberton, NJ two months after her disappearance in 2012, but it took almost a year to discover who she was. After a sketch was released to the press, along with dental x-rays, the trail eventually led to the correct family and an identification was made. Police have ruled the woman’s death a homicide.
In 2013, a thirty year old New Hampshire cold case was reopened. A highly unusual aspect of the case is that there were (most likely) four family members found dead in a remote area and nobody reported them missing back then or in the intervening years since.
Thinking of taking a walk in a secluded area? Don’t go alone and definitely take a cell phone to call for help if you do see a body in the woods.
*Photos taken by Patti Phillips