Get Fit RVA: Whitney Harris finds out what it takes to be a police officer

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — We continue our Get Fit RVA segment where Whitney Harris gets to work out with different groups to see “what it takes.”

She joined the Richmond Police 113th recruit class as they trained to be officers and she says they kicked her butt.

“It’s hard, and they will smoke you until you’re shaking,” said Kate Leone, one of the members of the 113th recruit class.

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They start out with the “daily sevens” — seven exercises with Whitney front and center. Then they stretched and went straight to the weight room.

“I’m really nervous — I don’t want to let everyone down, but I think I’m stronger than they think I am,” Whitney said. “I think I got this, but I am nervous.”

In the weight room, they started with one bench press with the strongest weight they could handle. It’s hard.

On her first try, Whitney failed with about 95 pounds. But on her second try, she got it and added five pounds to each side of the bar for her third try — and she got that one too.

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Next, a minute of chin ups, a minute of pushups, a minute of burpees, all followed by a near one-mile run.

“I’m exhausted and really embarrassed — I thought I was in shape. I work out, I go to the gym, but this is actually really hard,” Whitney said.

She got some mixed reviews on her performance.

So far you’re probably at the baseline level,” said Richmond Police Officer Donnell Patterson, somewhat joking.

“You’re doing great — you’ll be in the next academy right?” said recruit Kate Leone.

Officer Patterson explained the process that people go through to become police in the Richmond Police Department. He said they start with a baseline PT test, a baseline written test, and an interview.

Those who advance to the next level go through a background check. Eventually once people become police recruits, “We break them down in terms of turning a civilian into a police officer,” Officer Patterson said.

He says it’s important for the officers to be physically fit.

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“Just in case anyone is in a hand to hand combat situation — we hope that no one has to get into one — they might have to chase a bad guy or they might get in a situation where they have to do CPR compressions or save the public or themselves or a fellow officer,” he said. “It all goes back to physical fitness.”

Officer Patterson explained that the training is 32 weeks and there are classroom and hands-on portions. There are 17 recruits in the 113th recruit class.

“We have a lot of vacancies on the streets. It would be ideal if all 17 make it, but we’re not going to scale back our training just for the vacancies. We’re going to put the best quality on the street that we can,” Officer Patterson said.

Kate Leone from the113th recruit class explained why she wanted to be a Richmond Police officer.

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“I’ve just always wanted to do something meaningful for my life — just sitting behind a desk isn’t meaningful to me in the least,” she said. “I wanted to do something cool.”

She said she and her fellow recruits have been through a green and blue phase. The first part is all green phase, which is learning the laws and the codes.

The blue phase is a lot of hands-on learning.

“Handcuffing techniques, defense techniques, shooting, driving…,” she said.

Even though it’s tough, she says she and her fellow recruits have pushed through. “It’s really quite amazing,” Leone said. “You can do more than you think you can.”

Whitney can tell the recruits are bonding. They cheer each other on and encourage each other through the physical challenges. Leone says that is the key.

“You can’t get through this if you’re not a team,” she said. “It’s impossible.”

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