Inside SJPD San Jose Police Academy - Stepping into the blue

After applying for a position as an officer with the San Jose Police Department (SJPD), passing the written, physical and oral exams, and making it through the background check, you are hired by the City of San José. Now, the notification you have been waiting for arrives ... your start day at the San Jose Police Academy.

The San Jose Police Academy provides the skills and training so recruit officers have a foundation to navigate their way through the FTO (Field Training Officer) program and emerge as solo beat SJPD officers.

The recruits are men and women from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. They attend the San Jose Police Academy as paid employees for approximately six months, five days a week, usually from 7 AM to 4 PM. Depending on the activity, some training is conducted after hours and on weekends. The San Jose Police Academy is not a "live-in" academy. Recruit officers are responsible for their own living arrangements and transportation. That said, the recruit officers are given the basic equipment that they will use at the academy, including the khaki uniform (used during the first months), utility uniform, ties and tie tacks, duty belt, hand gun, and radio.

The San Jose Police Academy is a paramilitary structure with intense classroom curriculum and physical conditioning. The study program meets and exceeds the standards of the California Commission of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Classroom learning is combined with scenario / role-playing practical situations.

"We're very strict here. But, everything that we do here is done for a reason. At first the recruits say, 'Whoa! What's going on? Why do I have to do this?' Some of them may not understand. But, later on, they start saying, 'Ah, now I know why the instructor is doing this.' We let the recruits know that we want them to succeed. We're not just here to yell and scream at them. It's about them having the skill set so when they are on the street, I know that they're safe. At SJPD, no one tries to outdo the others. We work as a team. Towards the end of their training, the recruits start seeing that though we're instructors and directors and sergeants, we're also brothers and sisters. We're not here to see you fail. No matter what, we're going to help you get through the training." — Sergeant Paul Fontaine, Director of the San Jose Police Academy

What do the recruits study?

The beginning phase at the academy follows a POST-approved curriculum covering leadership, professionalism, ethics, policing in the community, and laws of arrest, Within the first two weeks, recruits are introduced to arrest control techniques, defensive tactics, and shooting abilities. They also go through "ground-level" classes such as crimes against property, From this foundation, the recruits move onto areas like defensive driving and EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operation Course), and scenarios.

"The San Jose Police Academy goes into so many facets of police work, like ethical policing, procedural justice, and juvenile law. We delve into each category and subcategory to give the recruits the background they need when they're out on the streets. Of course, once you're out there, you're still learning. I've been with department for many years and I still find something new every day when I'm teaching the recruits." — Sergeant Paul Fontaine, Director of the San Jose Police Academy

Some of the areas covered at the academy include:

  • California Laws (Penal Codes, Vehicle Codes, Health and Safety Codes)
  • Fire Arms Training
  • Search and Seizure Laws
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Emergency Response Driving
  • Vehicle Car Stops
  • Officer Safety
  • Report Writing
  • Crime Scene Management
  • Accident Investigation
  • Police Officer Ethics
  • Building Searches
  • Non-Lethal Weapons Training
  • Defensive Tactics
  • Arrest and Control Techniques
  • Radio Communication Codes
  • Recognition of Illegal Substances and Narcotics
  • Recognition of Under the Influence
  • Evidence Collection
  • Juvenile Laws

Fit for Life

Academy training is not only about police procedure and the law, but also about health and fitness, developing good habits that will follow officers through their entire career.

"We really believe in fitness. Some of the recruits come in, barely able to do a push-up, a sit-up, or run, even though we ask them to be ready to run starting Week 1. If you're out of shape, we're going to figure it out real quick." — Sergeant Paul Fontaine, Director of the San Jose Police Academy

Who are the academy instructors?

The staff and instructors at the San Jose Police Academy are SJPD officers, who applied for the position. After the interview process, the officers are assigned to the academy for three years. These officers go through extensive training before becoming an instructor. Currently, the San Jose Police Academy has two sergeants, each assigned to an academy class, four Recruit Training Officers (RTO), a coordinator and assistant coordinator. One of the sergeants serves as the director, who is in charge of schedules and working with POST.

SJPD-specific training at the academy

In addition to the POST curiculum, the San Jose Police Academy gives the recruits training that is specific to SJPD. This includes Conflict Intervention Training (CIT), Fair and Impartial Policing (F.I.P.), Body Worn Cameras, use of tasers, Procedural Justice, and Dräger training (intoxilyzer).

History of the San Jose Police Academy

"Prior to 1960, no formal training existed for new police officer members of the department. In the late 1950s a two-week orientation program had been implemented, but this program was very limited in scope and involved only a cursory overview of the mechanics of the department. New officers received little, or in some instances, no “on the job” training. When first introduced to patrol duties, officers were assigned indiscriminately to a senior officer who happened to be working the same schedule." — Sharon A. Moore and Aleda M. Womack of the SJPD

In the early 1960s the San Jose Police Department recruits began participating in regional police academies under the auspices of the California Commission of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). Although the recruits were instructed about the various aspects of law enforcement and policing, they had no opportunity to practice their skills in a controlled environment. And, upon leaving the Academy, the recruits were immediately assigned to patrol with a solo beat officer who was responsible for evaluating the rookie.

To address the need for transitioning recruits from the Academy to patrol, the SJPD developed the Field Training Program (FTO) in 1971.

By the early 2000s, the SJPD experienced enough growth to fill its own academy classes. During this period, the San Jose Police Academy was hosted at the South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Center at Evergreen College. The academy staff included SJPD Recruit Training Officers (RTOs) and a sergeant.

Eventually, POST certified the San Jose Police Academy, which began operating out of buildings in the San Jose Civic Center area.

Due to severe cutbacks and staffing reductions in the City of San José, the San Jose Police Academy was shut down from 2009 to 2012, During this period, there were no active classes and POST withdrew the certification from the San Jose Police Academy.

By 2012, the need for more police officers prompted the hiring of recruits. San Jose Police Academy classes were operated under the authority of South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium. The classes were staffed by SJPD RTOs and a sergeant.

Two years later, the San Jose Police Academy moved to the San Jose Police Department South Substation, which was transformed into an academy and training center.

In 2016, POST re-certified the San Jose Police Academy as an independently-operated police academy. The number of recruits continue to grow with each class.

The San Jose Police Department South Substation is the home of the San Jose Police Academy.

Graduating from the academy

When recruits graduate from the San Jose Police Academy, they are not finished with training. They move on to the Field Training Officer (FTO) program for a 17-week "on the street" training and evaluation. An important benefit of graduating from the San Jose Police Academy is that the recruit officers do not face a job hunt. They are part of the SJPD team, one of the finest and most respected police departments in the nation.

Interested in joining the SJPD team? Visit www.sjpdyou.com.

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