"Holy shit! How was the high school prom, bud?"
I laughed a little, shook my head, and said, "Oh, boy, here we go."
"Bro, you look like you're twelve. How old are you?"
"Jeez! I'm old enough to be your father."
There was an awkward silence for a second, and then I looked at him and smiled. "Does that mean I should start calling you Daddy?"
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how I started my first day at the police academy.
Not exactly how I had envisioned it, but it got a good laugh out of my classmates, and it definitely broke the ice. I didn't take any offense to my classmate's comments. I knew he wasn't being malicious. He was feeling the same emotions I was: anxiousness, curiosity, and excitement. His decision to bust my chops was more of a conversation starter and less of a knock on me. Before our brief interaction, no one had said a word, but after that exchange, we were more relaxed. We introduced ourselves and engaged in some small talk before we reached the entrance door of the academy. Together we entered the two-story building, knowing this was the start of the career that we had all worked so hard for.
Our class was very diverse. There were men, women, people of different backgrounds, and a wide range of ages. Although we were all different, we still shared many similarities. Most of us came from middle-class families. My dad, for example, was a stockroom manager at Brown University, and my mother worked for the school department. I had a younger brother and two younger sisters, and we had all grown up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Both of my parents worked extremely hard to provide for us, and while we never went without, we certainly weren't rich either.
I really can't tell you why, but I felt comfortable with most of my classmates right from the start. We had an instant bond. We all knew what we were about to go through and that it wouldn't be easy. There was a high probability that a good percentage of us wouldn't make it. This wasn't the type of test where as long as you tried your hardest, you passed. There are no participation trophies in the police academy. They have strict guidelines and requirements that have to be met, and if you don't meet them, you're gone. It was obvious that we would need to rely on each other to make it to the end. Regardless of who we were or how we felt before entering the academy, we all had one thing in common: we wanted to graduate...and that was enough for all of us.
You might be wondering why I'm telling you all of this. What does it have to do with defining who you are as a person? I was very young when I entered the academy, and as much as I hate to admit it, I still had some growing up to do. Yes, I was mature for my age, but I didn't have the life experiences that most people accumulate by the time they become a police officer. I had only graduated college a few months earlier, and knowing how to do a keg stand doesn't exactly qualify you to carry a gun. I had to redefine who I was.
The academy jump-started my growing-up phase earlier than it would've occurred naturally. When you realize the severity of your responsibilities, it forces you to look in the mirror and ask yourself, "Can I really do this?" Sure, I knew being a police officer wouldn't be easy, but my vision of what it actually entailed came from movies like Training Day and Speed. It wasn't until I found myself sitting in class listening to stories from former police officers that I understood what the job really entailed. After reluctantly admitting to myself that I needed to mature as a person, I decided to make some changes in my life. Knowing that self-awareness was the key to self-improvement, I not only had to be more accountable for my actions, I also had to figure out how my mind was wired.
Would I be able to handle the stressors associated with this line of work? Understanding what I was mentally capable of dealing with would allow me to define who I currently was and who I needed to become in order to perform my duties. The quickest way to improve who you are is by understanding your abilities. If your goal is to become a better quarterback for your football team, how can you determine what areas you need to work on if you've never thrown a football? The same principle applies to improving your individual characteristics. You have to know your positive and negative qualities before you can begin to achieve personal growth.
Before I was hired by the Central Falls Police Department, I took a battery of psychological tests that we refer to as psych screening. While not as in-depth as psychoanalysis, psych screening can allow the applicant to determine some basic aspects of their personality. Sometimes the applicant gets nervous because they mistakenly fear that a psychologist will be able to peer into their unconscious and see their innermost thoughts. This isn't the case at all. The main purpose of the tests is to screen out people who might be unfit to work with other officers and the public.
Psych screening consists of two parts: the timed portion with a pen and paper and a clinical interview with an actual psychologist. Although the whole process sounds elaborate, you can do the same type of psych screening on yourself with a little thought and without having to take a written test or meet with a doctor. Conducting your own psychological screening will put you one step closer to defining who you are.
I'll outline two easy steps that you can take to perform a self-analysis, or psych screening, on yourself. The first step consists of analyzing your strengths, specifically those aspects of your personality that set you apart from other people. This part of your personal evaluation is pretty easy, since you're essentially patting yourself on the back, something most of us, including myself, have no problem doing.
***** TABLE OF CONTENTS *****
1. Define Yourself
2. Know Your Target
3. Start at Headquarters
4. Set Your Sights
5. Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent...But Listen
6. Find your "Sixth Sense"
7. Lead with Confidence
8. Use Your Head
9. Turn Police Tactics into Corporate Strategies
10. Learn from Your Mistakes
11. Grow through Adversity
12. Surround Yourself with Inspiration