Vargas: Rubber chicken test no laughing matter for recruits

By Joe Vargas

I entered the grounds of the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy in 1980. I was member of Class #50.

It was nearly four months of inspections, drills, classroom instruction and of course physical training.  The first day, of course, was Black Monday – a day when tactical officers lined you up in formation and proceeded to yell, scream and raise your stress levels.

I was well prepared having been raised in a family of seven boys. There was no one who could yell better than my 4’9” mother.

I was called the worst example of a recruit the academy had ever seen and ended up in the front leaning rest position, writing memos well into the night explaining why there were threads hanging from my uniform.

The purpose of the training: Develop self-confidence, command presence and coping skills. It can be a very stressful job and those skills help.

While artificial stress created in police academies has become a matter of debate, one department has taken it to a new level. The Indiana University Police Academy has introduced the “rubber chicken test” into its training regimen.

Tactical officers are using the test to evaluate the focus and self-control of police recruits in inspection ranks during the academy.

As the poor recruits with no self-control break into laughter or even smirk they are immediately sent into the front leaning rest position, also known as planking.

For the recruits’ sake, I hope the laughter eventually wears off. Otherwise, there will be few more police officers in the streets of Indiana with ripped abs.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.