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Becoming the Badge: High Expectations

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As the sixth week at the academy starts, El Paso Police recruits are training for their first physical fitness test and their spot in the academy could be in jeopardy.

They’re also getting up close and personal with the drugs they’ll be trying to get off the streets.

For the past six weeks they've been training for the streets; on Wednesday, the streets will come to them in the form of drugs seized by narcotics officers.

“To see a kilo of cocaine makes it real,” said recruit Damian George.

The recruits were exposed to kush, marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, meth and ecstasy.

For many of them, it was their first experience around hard drugs.

Officers also burned marijuana so the recruits could learn to identify the smell.

They practiced using field testing kits

The Texas Peace Officer exam includes a practical section, where recruits will have to demonstrate what they’ve learned.

“They have to identify these types of drugs and be able to use these test kits,” explained lead instructor Sgt. Jeremey Ontiveros.

But the rigors of the academy are starting to take a toll.

“It was a rough week in the beginning,” said recruit Jesus Lucero. He said he's struggling to keep up with the academics and feeling the pressure from the instructors.

“I’m getting pushed. It doesn’t affect me. I take it as a way of getting better,” said Lucero.

Recruit Sarah Tew has received several write-ups.

“I must admit I am lacking when it comes to adaptation,” said Tew.

Now she's worried about making the force.

“My concern is if I have a lot of write-ups that maybe they will take me out,” said Tew.

Which puts even more pressure on her to pass Friday's physical test. Failure could mean the end of the line.

This week the academy lost another recruit for integrity issues.

On the UTEP track 66 out of 76 recruits remain to take their first physical test.

But company commander Damian George has suffered a setback.

“I pulled my hamstring,” said George.

Still, he pushes through the test.

“You suck it up and get through it, no sense in crying about it,” said George.

The physical fitness test consists of six portions.

“These components were in correlation with that the job tasks were. What would a law enforcement officer be doing in the street?” said Ontiveros.

Since this is the first test, they're allowed to fail one portion. This will be the only time.

First, recruits run a mile.

They have to do it in under 10 minutes and 49 seconds.

Sprint 100 meters in less than 19 seconds.

Then knock out 24 pushups. Next, they complete 32 situps in a minute

Recruits demonstrate flexibility by completing 15 cycles of a bend and twist in 20 seconds.

Finally, their grip is measured.

Their strength must total 160 pounds, 80 in each hand which has a direct correlation to passing their firearms test.

“The grip strength is an important part of the test. If the grip strength was lower than the 80 pounds, they didn’t have the ability to pass the qualification,” said Ontiveros.

As a whole, the class passed their first physicals.

“It felt really good to see everybody smiling,” said Sergio Soto.

But it's not going to get any easier.

Next week, understanding their role in protecting victims gets personal and the recruits open up as they face setbacks and struggle to balance their home life with their new careers.

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