Great police work starts with great training. Mississippi Delta Community College is one of five law enforcement academies in the state dedicated to the mental and physical preparation of tomorrow’s elite force of community servants. At the Rotary Club of Indianola meeting this week, Wesley Hazelwood, coordinator of the MDCC Law Enforcement Academy, described how recruits go through an 11-week series of classes, on-the-job training and physical drills for prepare for a career in law enforcement. “It’s paramilitary-style training where we get up at 4:30 a.m., do PT (physical training), take about 15 minutes to eat, and go to class from 8 a.m. to noon,” Hazelwood explained. “At noon, we take about 20 minutes for lunch, return to class until around 5 p.m., eat and do PT until 6 p.m., 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. depending on the mood. We take a fruit break and if we don’t have night shooting practice at the range, we shower and go to sleep around 9 or 9:30. And we’re up again at 4:30 the next day.
Officers-in-training are pushed to the limit but polished and refined at the same time. They must pass uniform and berth inspections to demonstrate their professional presentation and dedication. “There are three main skills that recruits learn by attending the academy,” Hazelwood said. “They learn defensive tactics, SSGG, which is a type of jujitsu fighting, and firearms. Right now we’re into week six, which is a good week of firearms training. By the end of this week, the average rookie will have fired an average of 2,000 bullets. »
Recruits experience high levels of stress to simulate field conditions where they learn to assess situations relating to the use of force, de-escalation, approaching vehicles with tinted windows and driving on crash sites with both speed and safety in mind. Hazelwood said there are three cohorts of students per year and the current class started with 44 recruits and dropped to 22 just over halfway through this cycle.
By the time someone completes the program, they will undoubtedly have both the physical transformation and the academic skills necessary to qualify as a certified officer. But Hazelwood, a 15-year law enforcement veteran, said the heart test is perhaps the most important of all recruits face. “Anyone who goes through the academy, I ask them what their why is,” he said. “Let’s face it. There are a lot of people who just don’t like police officers. And you have to understand the reason why you want to go serve and protect people who might not like or respect you.
When recruits make the transition to become officers, Hazelwood always tells them to act with honesty and integrity. “Do the right thing even when no one is watching, but be mindful because someone is always watching,” Hazelwood said. “You can’t afford to be sloppy. Be proud of what you do, because once you’re tagged as a bad cop, you may be able to wash off the tag, but the residue remains.