The clock is ticking: Here's what it takes to pass Garden Grove PD's physical agility test

By Greg Hardesty

Down he went.

The applicant was on the last of three physical agility tests for the Garden Grove PD — a 440-yard run — when his hamstring seized up.

If he failed a second time to complete the run in 1 minute and 52 seconds during a tryout Saturday at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin, his dreams of moving on to a written test would end.

The applicant would have to wait up to another year to try the physical test again — the first step in a long, grueling process of becoming a GGPD officer.

And time isn’t on the applicant’s side.

The ex-cop is in his 50s.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Circumstance forced the applicant to retire as a police officer several years ago after more than a decade on the job.

Now he’s itching to get back in the game as a Level I Reserve Police Officer.

The applicant sat under a medic tent and worked his hamstring for several minutes as 86 other applicants in the first of two sessions Saturday continued their tryouts.

Some had already passed.

Others had bombed out.

The applicant stood up and took his place at the starting line — just a quarter-mile of sun-baked asphalt standing between him and his mid-career dream.

***

An applicant rips through the monkey bars. Photo: Steven Georges

An applicant rips through the monkey bars. Photo: Steven Georges

Successful applicants Saturday — a total of 189 showed up, about half the number who said they would — had two chances to successfully complete each of the following tests of physical agility:

Obstacle Course (time limit of 1 min. 53 sec.) — Run through a slalom barricade, climb over a six-foot wall, walk down a balance beam, climb or roll over three belly bars, scale a five-foot wall, traverse a monkey bar, climb through an open simulated window, touch a wall and sprint about 40 yards.

Dummy Drag — Drag a 165-pound dummy 35 feet in 10.3 seconds or less.

440-yard run — Time limit of 1 min. 52 sec.

The tests are minimum benchmarks set by the Police Officer Standards and Training (POST).

To pass, one generally has to be in “good” overall shape, said Lt. Bob Bogue of the GGPD.

Having great upper-body strength but no wind won’t cut it.

Being a solid runner with spaghetti arms won’t, either.

And not going all out won’t win you any friends at the GGPD.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

One of three belly bars that are part of the obstacle course. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“We can teach technique,” Capt. Kevin Boddy said.

“But we can’t teach heart.”

Bogue told the applicants before the test that the police academy is “10 times harder” than what they would be doing today but he urged them to give their all.

Office Nick Jensen, who heads up recruit training for the GGPD, told them the job of being a cop is “about integrity and honesty.”

Jensen also told applicants to cheer themselves on.

They did.

Applicants waiting their turn shouted words of encouragement especially during the obstacle course, the toughest part of the test for most.

Several applicants struggled getting over the two walls and some had trouble with the monkey bars.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Scaling a belly bar. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

This writer had to make two attempts to get over the first wall before passing the obstacle course — at 52, one of the oldest people to show up Saturday.

The dummy drag was a breeze for some and a bummer for others, some of whom get tripped up in the sand.

This writer found dealing with the dummy to be no problem — which wasn’t surprising, since he deals with himself on a daily basis.

And for some, the quarter-mile run was a walk in the park — including for this writer, who loves to run.

Jacob Smith, 22, of Santa Ana, has taken physical agility tests for the Anaheim, Orange and Santa Ana police departments.

He passed Garden Grove’s test Saturday and rated it medium in terms of difficulty, as compared to the other agencies (Anaheim’s, he says, was brutal).

Paul Pham, 22, whose story recently was chronicled by Behind the Badge OC (click here to read), breezed through the three challenges.

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The monkey bars got slippery in the late-morning heat. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It’s easy,” he said — not surprising, coming from a guy just three years out of his teens and in great shape.

Of the 184 applicants who competed in Saturday, 168 passed — a success rate of 91.3 percent. The Garden Grove PD hopes to whittle the 168 down to three to five potential officers for an academy expected to start in September.

The middle-aged applicant with the sore hamstring turned the first corner of the square lap.

Then the second.

Third.

And the fourth, making his way to the finish under the cutoff time.

Pass.

The applicant cooled down before making his way to his car.

Asked what the hardest part of the physical agility test was, the applicant smiled.

“Just showing up,” he said.

Applicants gather at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy’s obstacle course for instructions at the start of Garden Grove PD’s physical agility test. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Applicants gather at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy’s obstacle course for instructions by Officer Nick Jensen at the start of Garden Grove PD’s physical agility test Saturday.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

People hoping to apply to the police academy through the Garden Grove Police Department run through the physical agility test at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy in Tustin.

Upper body strength? Check. Photo by Stephen Georges

 

Applicants runing through the obstacle course for the Garden Grove PD’ physical agility test, hit the hand plate on the wall at the end of the obstacle course at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy before sprinting back to the other side to finish. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

An applicant running through the obstacle course for the Garden Grove PD’ physical agility test hits the hand plate on the wall at the end of the obstacle course at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy before sprinting back to the other side to finish.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Natalie Garcia, 23 of Garden Grove, runs through Garden Grove PD’s physical agility test at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy in Tustin. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Natalie Garcia, 23, of Garden Grove works the monkey bars.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Applicants drag a 165 pound dummy 35 feet as part of the Garden Grove PD’s physical agility test at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Applicants run through the obstacle course, part of the physical agility test for the Garden Grove PD at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy in Tustin. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Paul Pham, 22, of Garden Grove has dreamed of being a cop all his life. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Applicants gather for instructions and advice for Garden Grove PD’s physical agility test at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy in Tustin. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Officer Nick Jensen briefs applicants before the Garden Grove PD’s physical agility test at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Behind the Badge Senior Writer Greg Hardesty runs through the Garden Grove PD’s obstacle course at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Behind the Badge Senior Writer Greg Hardesty runs through the Garden Grove PD’s obstacle course at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Behind the Badge Senior Writer Greg Hardesty runs through the Garden Grove PD’s obstacle course at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Reserve Garden Grove Police Officer John Ojeisekhoba tells Hardesty where to go next on the obstacle course.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Behind the Badge Senior Writer Greg Hardesty runs through the Garden Grove PD’s obstacle course at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Behind the Badge Senior Writer Greg Hardesty drags a 165 pound dummy 35 feet as part of the Garden Grove PD’s physical agility test at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Behind the Badge Senior Writer Greg Hardesty prepares to drag a 165-pound dummy 35 feet as part of the Garden Grove PD’s physical agility test.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Applicants run through the obstacle course, part of the physical agility test for the Garden Grove PD at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy in Tustin. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Applicants run through the obstacle course, part of the physical agility test for the Garden Grove PD at the Orange County Sheriff's Regional Training Academy in Tustin. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Getting over the wall.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC