JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Before putting on a uniform or being handed a gun, Jonesboro police officers must pass a number of tests.
The exercises required for the physical test may sound easy to some, but many who went through it found parts of it difficult.
Region 8 News put me to the test to see if I have what it takes to get on the road to becoming a police officer.
Sergeant Lyle Waterworth has 18 years with the Jonesboro Police Department and is the training coordinator.
Waterworth said the physical test follows the Cooper Institute Protocol.
It includes six exercises each with time requirements. While some of the exercises may seem easy, each serves a purpose to track if a man or woman has what it takes to become an officer.
The physical test was on a Saturday morning at 8 a.m. at Valley View High School.
With 30 potential candidates ready to show their skills, JPD let me be number 31 and compete with the last group.
Twenty-two sit ups were one portion of the test.
"Typically you're not going to end up having to do a number of sit-ups on the street, but it is testing muscular endurance," Waterworth said.
Sit ups had to be completed in one minute, and I was able to complete the task with a little heavy breathing.
Twelve push-ups must be completed in one minute.
"Down and up is one rep," said one of the officers giving directions.
I, of course, asked to make sure no "girl", or alternate, push-ups were allowed. Officers were quick to tell me no.
I passed the push-up portion, but I do prefer my "girl" push-ups.
A task that didn't take long was the sit and reach.
While it's simply a stretch, some did struggle to hit the 13-inch requirement.
Candidates sat on the ground and bent at the hips to perform the exercise.
I had no struggle with this. It was like touching your toes.
Three of the exercises down with three more to go, and this is where things got tougher for me.
The 300-meter run was difficult, and by difficult, I mean my entire body was in pain after completing it.
Other's agreed with me.
"It was hard," 28-year-old Jacob Hosford said. "I was like, 'Oh my, I'm going to die, I'm not going to make it.' But, I did it in 40-something seconds and I was like, 'Okay, I made it.'"
The 300-meter run must be complete in 71 seconds.
"The 300-meter run is an analog for a pursuit," Waterworth said. "It's going to test your power."
Power is absolutely what it tested.
Before taking off, officers told me to do it I needed a good speed without wearing myself out too soon.
It was a straight shot, and when I thought I was almost there, I wasn't.
I did complete the 300-meter run with just a few seconds remaining.
Another run was also on the list. Everyone had to complete a mile and a half run in 18 minutes.
"A continuous physical test for 18 minutes is something that is somewhat difficult," Waterworth said.
While testing endurance, Waterworth said the results of the run show more than just athleticism.
"The citizens of Jonesboro expect us to be able to do our job, and, you know, we are going to work eight hours a day, but a physical exertion for 18 minutes is something that is quite difficult," Waterworth said.
Tanner Hill, 25-years-old, was at the physical test to see what he was made of and said it's all in your head.
"The mental part is what I feel keeps everybody back," Hill said.
Waterworth echoed that thought before we took off for the run.
He said mental strength is what will keep you going for 18 minutes.
At a slow pace, I completed 1.5 miles in 15 minutes and 19 seconds.
Five out of six exercises completed, but it was the one exercise I didn't anticipate being that hard that would give me the most challenge.
Trigger pull is where you take an unloaded gun and pull the trigger 15 times with each hand.
"Not that you are going to end up pulling the trigger 15 times," Waterworth said. "The ability to manipulate your hands and get the judge of your hand strength."
I passed with 15 trigger pulls on the right, but it was my left hand that failed me.
"You don't think about hand strength," Waterworth said.
I got to nine trigger pulls on my left hand when my finger didn't want to pull anymore.
It was a feeling I'd never had before. My brain told my left index finger to keep pulling and the muscle couldn't react.
"Wiggle your finger just a bit," an officer said.
Even with a stretch of the finger and several laughs, I used my index finger and middle finger to complete the task and get to 15 trigger pulls.
Thankfully, I wasn't an actual candidate or I would have been asked to leave after failing the trigger pull.
JPD said if a candidate can't complete one of the exercises they are normally asked to leave immediately.
This is partly not to waste anyone's time.
They did ask someone to leave after they also failed the trigger pull.
When I asked Waterworth how I did, he said I actually did pretty well considering I was simply there to just see what it was like.
Fun and games aside, others who did the exercises in front of me had serious reasons and intentions for being at the physical test.
Hosford said he hoped to become a police officer to be a part of something bigger.
"I grew up in a broken home," Hosford said. "There was actually a lot of abuse when I was growing up, and not growing up with a father, I kind of had to make it on my own."
Hosford said he wants to become an officer so he can relate to people who've been through what he has and make a difference.
Hill made it to the end of the testing with the goal of being a positive light for his son.
"I want to do him proud when he gets old," Hill said. "I'd like for him to be able to look at me as a role model, good father figure."
Both Hill and Hosford said the six tasks were harder than expected, but they were proud they completed each one.
"Actually, makes me have even more respect for them and what they do in the community," Hosford said.
No matter the intentions, Waterworth said the tasks are about proving yourself to the department and community.
"The citizens of Jonesboro, the citizens of whatever town a police department is in, want quality applicants," Waterworth said.
That's why passing the physical test is just the beginning for future police officers.
Applicants also undergo a background check, a written exam, and a polygraph examination.
"You get into the true background investigation where they find out a lot about a person," Waterworth said.
It's not until all of the boxes are checked that future officers go through formal police training with JPD.
"Most people think, 'Oh, anybody can just get a badge and a gun and they can go out and do whatever they want,' and they can't," Hosford said.
For more information on the testing process and what JPD requires click here.
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