I didn't know what to expect when I accepted the invitation from the Minneapolis police to join the cadets in April for a half day of training at the academy facility in north Minneapolis. I was told to wear some workout clothes, because there was going to be some PT - physical training (in police land there are acronyms for everything). I figured, "OK, I go to the gym a couple times a week. This shouldn't be that hard."
I learned how to handcuff a suspect and learned what it's like to be treated like one. I was the subject of the single-arm takedown drill, which meant I was grabbed and dropped to the mat, over and over and over. Perhaps more importantly, the cadets learned what it's like to be on the other end of a "use of force" incident, as they took turns acting like a suspect resisting arrest.
The cadets were divided into several groups and competed against each other to see which team could have each of its members run a short course around the gym and perform a takedown of each member of another group.
The point of the exercise, said the instructor, was to condition officers to be able to perform a proper takedown of a suspect after a strenuous foot chase.
That was followed by boot camp-style workout, consisting of a combination of running and core exercises like kettle bell swings and leg lifts. I did not finish the last lap around the track. I was sore from all the takedowns, pushups and running.
I next saw the cadets in early October as they held a training session in downtown Minneapolis. At this point, they were two weeks away from graduation. The head of the academy, Steven Bantle, told me he could tell they were ready to get out of there.
On Graduation Day on Tuesday, the new officers left the sweats behind and donned blue uniforms and ceremonial white gloves. I've been to several cadet graduations, but this one was more crowded than past ceremonies.
Dozens of family members waited in the wings to pin the badges on their new graduates. Among that group were Minneapolis police officers waiting to greet a son, daughter or nephew who had just joined the "family business." The class included four legacies: Cadet Zerrick Fuller's father is officer Joe Fuller; cadet Tyler Klund's father is Sgt. Darcy Fuller; cadet Dominic LaNasa's uncle is officer Mark LaNasa and cadet Angela Osbeck's father is officer Michael Osbeck. Also, her brother is officer Michael Osbeck Jr., which, according to Chief Janeé Harteau, may make them the first father-daughter-son combo in the department's history.
The new officers will now begin five months of field training, which means each will be paired with a veteran officer. They will face a city that is still reeling from a spate of violence that has left six people dead in the month of October so far.
The department has been well short of its authorized strength of 860 officers for a while now. And police officials say the new graduates will put them on track to meet that limit by the end of the year.