Becoming the Badge: Fight Game

El Paso Police recruits.

This week El Paso police recruits are taking some jabs, left hooks and a few blows as they learn the art of boxing.

They’re gradually stepping up their game, but there's more to it than just sport.

They’ve been rolling with the punches and learning to throw some of their own.

“Some of these recruits were just clumsy,” said Officer Joe Lopez, who oversees the boxing program.

He’s in charge of teaching the recruits how to box, from the beginning.

“Some of these recruits never threw a punch. Some of these recruits have never been hit,” said Lopez. “Once they hit the streets that’s not the first time we want them to experience it.”

Getting the recruits to go round after round, lays the foundation for learning the department's defensive tactics program, which won't happen for a few months.

Sparring will get them up to speed on footwork and coordination.

Once the recruits hit the streets they'll encounter people who solve problems with their fists.

“Day one, these guys could encounter a violent situation,” said Lopez. “It's important to give officers the skills to be able to survive a violent encounter.”

Part of that is preparing the recruits to recognize when a punch is coming.

“If they're looking at the fists, by the time the punch comes it's too late. We teach them to look at the shoulder,” said Lopez.

With each combination, recruits are gaining confidence in the ability to protect themselves.

“I feel like I’m powerful, I don’t know why. it gave me confidence that I can fight,” said recruit Sarah Tew.

Each punch has a purpose.

“One thing about police officers is that they can’t get knocked out,” said Lopez.

“The moment I let my guard down for anybody is the day I get taken down,” said recruit Sergio Soto.

When your life's on the line, there's no throwing in the towel.

“It’s a necessity for us to teach them how to protect themselves. They can't lose fights. If they lose the fight, then we all lose the fight. That’s just the way it is,” said Lopez.

Next Sunday night, recruits are cramming for a big exam and learning the wheels of justice start with them.

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