What it takes to become a Knoxville police officer

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Tested both physically and mentally for a grueling 28 weeks, arguably the most important part of what it takes to become a Knoxville police officer happens in the classroom.

“First you have to start with the passion to do the job. It’s not for the pay obviously,” says Lt. Tammy DeBow, Knoxville Police Department’s Training Director.

It’s a passion countless have given their lives for, which is why each day of recruit training starts with a reading from the officer down page, to many, serving as a gut check.

“It just comes down to being that type of person who’s willing to give up your life for somebody else,” said KPD recruit Melissa Hernandez, who is also the lone female recruit. “To show you, ‘Look this is what you signed up for. This could be you tomorrow,  Are you ready for that?'”

“It’s very difficult [training],” says DeBow. “It’s both mentally and physically exhausting. These recruits, their first month, they are drained. And it’s done that way for a purpose, because sometimes on these shifts you will be on a scene and you’re mentally exhausted, but you have to remember what you’re taught here.”

Thirty-nine recruits are currently in the process of learning what it takes to become a Knoxville police officer.

Recruits in Crossfit training.

“Only one female, unfortunately,” DeBow said.

DeBow says it’s their goal as a department to recruit and reflect the same diversity that’s in their community and have that shown on the force. Acknowledging there’s still room to grow.

“We’ve made a very good effort but you know we’re just beginning to scratch the surface I feel like,” DeBow said.

Knoxville Police Department’s recruits are trained in firearms, driving, defensive tactics, communication skills, problem solving skills, crisis intervention, cultural competency, laws, investigations, policies and procedures, general orders, report writing, response to resistance, deescalation and tactical repositioning, traffic scenario training, physical fitness, and nutrition.

“You’ve got to be able to absorb all that and somehow translate it when you get on the street,” says KPD recruit Tyler Harmon. “The academics, I mean they throw a lot at you at once it is hard to digest all that and try and remember what you need to remember when you need to remember it.”

KPD recruit Melissa Hernandez, the lone female recruit.

“When you do a ride along, you will see that an officer has a lot that they have to remember, driving that vehicle,” said DeBow.

“For us we need to impress upon them the commitment to this job,” says DeBow. “We have a lot of controversy that surrounds us, everybody protests one thing or another and people are very strong in their beliefs and we respect that – absolutely, but at the same time we have a duty.”

The drive and the desire to serve are things you can’t teach.

“I know it’s kind of corny, but it definitely takes a passion to help people, I’ve always been the type of person that wants to help people and I guess make the world a better place,” says Hernandez.

“We don’t just do this because it’s a job, we do it because at some point in our life we felt that we had a calling to come out here and protect people,” said Harmon.

After those 28 weeks are over, the recruits are still not done. Then comes another 22 weeks of in the field training where they are with a KPD training officer and evaluated daily on the skills they learned while in the academy.

Gabriella Pagan learns how to shoot.

In this case, the current class started on Feb. 6, 2017 and will graduate the academy Aug. 17, 2017. After graduation they immediately go in to the field training process. They will complete this process towards the very end of 2017 and beginning of 2018.

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