Becoming the Badge: Tools of the Trade

El Paso Police Academy training (KFOX14)

Ten weeks into the police academy, the 66 El Paso police recruits are getting their first piece of police equipment.

Recruits are also working on communication. They’re breaking out their handcuffs and some of their bodies are breaking down.

Ten weeks in, recruits have to up their game.

“They want to push us to our limit,” said recruit Sergio Soto.

“When you've reached your maximum potential in your head, you’ve probably only reached 40 percent of what you can physically do. We want to push them beyond that 40 percent,” said instructor Joe Lopez.

It was too much for some.

“I vomited this week. My body is telling me to calm down and I can’t,” said Soto.

On Monday, paramedics were called to the academy, for recruit Jesus Lucero.

“I was having some issues breathing, catching my breath. That was the main concern,” said Lucero.

He was taken to the hospital and released later that day.

But he's had to stay on the sidelines since.

“It bothers you because you become a target,” said Lucero.

Last week, recruit Anthony Greer passed out from dehydration.

“I wasn’t real prepared. I was dehydrated. I had a headache and I went down and I was embarrassed,” said Greer.

The recruits constantly have to improve.

“They want to push us to the limit to see where we are at and how to improve from there. They don’t want to hurt us. They just want to make us better than what we are,” said Soto.

Last week, recruits revisited high school English as they learned the mechanics of writing a good report.

This week, they’re speaking Spanish.

“When we were in trouble we would get yelled at in Spanish, so I know some phrases,” said Greer.

“All of it was pretty new to me,” said recruit Damian George.

Being able to communicate with the community they police is key.

“Lack of communication leads to conflict sometimes,” said George.

Even for native Spanish speakers, learning street slang was new.

“They’re going to encounter different types of Spanish,” said academy Sgt. Jeremy Ontiveros.

“Simple words -- the literal meaning of it can mean something totally different,” said Bermudez.

“The slang is changing every day,” said Soto.

But the highlight for recruits came on Thursday, when they got to break out their first piece of equipment -- a pair of handcuffs -- and add it to their belts.

With cuffs in hand, reality is starting to sink in.

“This is going to be one of the tools of my trade, is a pair of handcuffs. It's the first step. It's an awesome feeling,” said Greer.

Recruits are learning the mechanics of making an arrest.

“Sgt. Ontiveros explained to us, it's all about how you position yourself and how you position the suspect, and you can put a little bit of pressure and you can take anyone to the ground,” said Greer.

They’re learning how to gain control of an unruly subject and how to take that person into custody.

“People don’t want to go to jail. They don’t want their freedoms taken away,” said Ontiveros.

The recruits came away with an important message.

During a struggle, once the handcuffs go on and an officer takes control, that’s when the struggle stops.

“We are learning self-control is a big part of it all. You can’t take any of it personal(ly),” said Bermudez.

As the week came to a close, Lucero and two other recruits failed Friday's test.

“I missed it by one question. Two of the other classmates did as well and we ended up paying for it,” said Lucero.

The class was sent outside, to knock out 270 jumping jacks.

“It’s definitely something frustrating. I’m a little upset,” said Lucero.

Next week, the recruits will learn how they can help save a life when someone wants to take theirs.

The lesson will bring back painful memories for some.

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