These photographs are the result of several days spent observing the training exercises of prospective Los Angeles police officers at the LAPD academies in Westchester and Granada Hills. It quickly became clear that the job of police officer requires extremely varied skills and an ability to apply them with precision and restraint in an inherently unpredictable, and even deadly, work environment. The instructors, who have all worked in the field, seemed well aware of their burden of responsibility in teaching the recruits. Consequently, it was surprising and reassuring to witness, on occasion, humor finding its way into the training process as well.

The photographs represent many aspects of training within a program the department itself describes as “paramilitary.” This includes classroom studies, fitness, driving maneuvers, baton and weapons training and a wide range of participatory field scenario exercises. The academy in Granada Hills has a village complete with homes, streets and businesses where instructors acting as suspects and students armed with paint-ball ammunition play out an ever-changing array of crime scenarios. The exercises would potentially be a lot of fun if not for the sobering detail of real-life survival at the core of this curriculum.

The LAPD required very few restrictions during photography, but one is worth mentioning because it determined many of the resulting compositions. I was not allowed to show the faces of any students. The official explanation given was that some of the recruits might end up doing undercover assignments.

I learned much about the LAPD while I was working on this assignment — for instance, the only contact most civilians ever have with police officers results from traffic violations. This information was further illustrated to me on a particularly busy Thursday after documenting “vehicle-stop procedures” at the Westchester academy. I was pulled over and ticketed for a traffic violation of my own. The irony was not lost on me, and I believe I conducted myself with textbook restraint.

Simunition (simulation and ammunition) training

Classroom time

Skid training

Some cadets must play dead in training.

Dressed for training: Masks and vest protect against paint-gun rounds.

Building search

A cadet gets “tagged” in the back.

Officer Grasso plays suspect in a home-invasion scene.

Collapsible-baton training

Baton instructors: Officers Zellars (left) and Mendoza

Fitness training

Officers Bailey (kneeling) and Olivas (pointing) instruct cadets in the psychological as well as the physical.

Fist suit exercise

Pistol training

Gun inspection

Scenario training for 187, homicide arrest

Officer Acosta plays suspect.

Cuff ‘em.

The “victim”

Baton dummy

LA Weekly