Hattiesburg Police Academy boots up recruits

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - All over the Pine Belt for the next fifteen weeks, there will be police recruits - sore, exhausted and icing their muscles nightly.

The Hattiesburg Police Department has welcomed - sort of - its first class in nearly two years. The class started with 21, Tuesday was the first day, and now there are only 19 recruits.

"We usually have a 50 to 60 percent drop out rate," said HPD Training Director Tony Fontaine.

So odds are that only nine or ten of the men - and one woman - in the class this year will graduate the academy to become officers on the streets by this summer.

When they start the academy, recruits begin to receive a new recruit salary that ends the day they drop out - if they drop out. Every day they will arrive at the training center near the Bobby L. Chain Airport at 7:45 in the morning, and leave anytime the training officers decide the day has ended. They have a one hour lunch break.

The HPD's academy has a reputation for being one of the hardest. It requires higher written and physical test scores. Plus, the state academy's program is a 10 weeks, where as the Hattiesburg force answers with a 15-week course.

"We want to go beyond just the minimum of state standards," said HPD Lieutenant Eric Proulx.

"The difficult part of this academy in my opinion from going through this academy several years ago, is adapting to the environment," Fontaine said.

That environment Fontaine is talking about is a mental and physical gauntlet; yelling, screaming, memorization, running, being pushed until muscles quiver.

"We stress them out, then we allow them to relax, then we stress them out again, and by stressing them out, we're putting them in situations, like the real world," said Fontaine.

And while the Lieutenant said if recruits make it through the first two weeks, they will likely make it to graduation, no one knows for sure - not until the final day - who will become an officer.

"I've learned that you never judge a book by it's cover. And even the ones that you look at and you think they're not going to finish the program, will surprise you."

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