The Las Vegas Review-Journal describes what it’s like for prospective police officers to go through training these days. When the clock strikes 6:15 a.m., they get the first taste of what lies ahead at the Metropolitan Police Department Academy. “Quit freaking looking around!” officer Dean Leslie barks as he emerges from the academy gate. As the newspaper describes it, recruits stand in various states of disarray and officers circle them like a pack of wolves stalking prey. They lurk on the fringes of the room, scanning for a sign of weakness — an unbuttoned shirt pocket, an unnecessary twitch, a wandering eye — then pounce.
The recruits learn under a revised academy curriculum dubbed “Cop 101.” The program was overhauled in 2007 when the department was hiring 600 new officers under a sales tax initiative. Previously, there were several classes a year, each with 100 to 120 recruits. Because of their size, the classes were heavy on lectures. Now, the number is down to 45 recruits. The smaller classes make it easier for recruits to learn and harder for them to hide their shortcomings. The curriculum focuses on the basic tasks of a patrol officer. No more learning about blood spatter patterns and advanced topics no beat cop has to worry about. Classes are more hands-on, with more practical learning scenarios. Under the old program, 19 percent of recruits dropped out of the academy, and 17 percent didn’t finish field training. Now, the academy attrition rate spiked to 31 percent, while all but 8 percent of the new officers made it through field training.