We’ve been broken into groups of eight, because there are only eight testing stations in the testing center. Those of us with jobs get to take the test first, at 0700; this is not because we’re “better” than the other cadets, but because if we’ve been hired then right after we pass we all have to run over to our agencies, fill out paperwork and, for some of us, get sworn in. We’re supposed to get back for graduation rehearsal around 1700.
For me, the early start is required because I have to head across town to my agency, then head out to the airport to pick up Juliana and Hunter, then home, then back to the airport to pick up Amy, my sister, bring them all back to the house, get changed into my uniform (which I picked up from the dry cleaner on the way home last night) and head over to the rehearsal and graduation. After graduation, we all go out to dinner, where I’ll be sworn in.
I arrive at about quarter to seven, and Sig and a couple of the guys are there, along with Dave, in the break room. We’re having coffee (I usually don’t eat breakfast but today I decided that I would listen to the pork farmers and egg lobbyists and cereal marketers and consider breakfast my “most important meal” – I stopped at Sonic for a breakfast burrito and coffee).
Dave is relaxed and jokin’ and joshin’ and, as he promised he would be, marketing to us to try and get us to return to the academy for in-service training. He says that we’ll all do great.
At 0715 we walk across the street. The testing center is run by a very friendly and patient woman, who explains that the computers are connected via a virtual private network to the state examination board in Austin, so sometimes the pages can advance slowly. We take the test, then come out and get our score.
We’re seated. I start going through the questions.
Now, let me say this: I’ve heard from previous classes that the practice test is eerily similar to the actual state exam, but I cannot believe just how close the two are. In fact, many questions are identical.
I finish in 25 minutes; I’m the first in my group. I head out to the desk, and the woman says, “Well, you passed, but let me get the score from you – I have to go into a separate system to get it.”
She comes back in about a minute. “You got a 93%, congratulations!”
I do a little happy-dance. Ninety three! Fuck EVERYBODY! Yeah! Genessee comes out; he also got a 93%. Sig gets a 92%. The three of us walk back together to the academy. We work out a little suprise. We enter Dave’s office. Dave is staring at us, expectantly.
“Passed,” Genesee tells him.
“All right!,” Dave says, and widens his eyes, indicating he wants to know the score.
“Got a seventy three,” Genesee tells him proudly.
There’s a two-millisecond delay, after which Dave says, “Great!” and shakes Genesee’s hand.
“Dave, I’m fuckin’ with ya,” Genesee says, “I gotta 93%.”
The relief washes over Dave’s face; his entire body relaxes. “I got a 93% too,”: I say, and now Dave is laughing, and shaking our hands, and Sig tells him his score and Dave is almost ecstatic; he’s the happiest guy in Texas.
The three of us walk out into the hallway, and we see GI Jane, and several other cadets. Jane looks at me: “How’d you do?”
“Ninety three!” I say, and there’s this moment where I just want to hug her and jump up and down and say, “Yay!” but it’s awkward as all hell – we’ve never hugged before, and we’re certainly not gonna do it in the hallway, in front of a bunch of our classmates and in sight of Dave, so we end up doing this cute little fist-bump thing. Then I wish her luck and get the hell out of there.
I’m standing outside, looking at the rest of my classmates, who are standing in line, waiting their turns. Some will wait until about 10 am or even later. All have the look of men who won’t find out for some hours whether they’ll be hanged or handed a brassy new saxophone – and either is as likely as the other.
I speak with a few – “It’s no big deal, you’re prepared; if you passed the practice and the final then you’ll pass this,” etc – and then jump in my car.
Holy shit. I’m done. Not, like, almost done, or done except – I’m done. The academy is over. The state examination has been passed. I’m done.
I want to call Juliana and give her the news, but she’s in the air. She’ll land in two hours. I head across town to my agency and pick up some stuff, drop off some stuff, etc. I ask Dan if I can just clip this here badge to my belt, and he says, “No, chief is really serious about that, and technically you’re not a cop until you’re sworn in.”
We head out to get something to eat – or at least Dan does. it’s an early lunch for Dan, about 11 am – and then I drive out to the airport. Juliana and Hunter walk off the plane, tired and run down from the TSA experience and the USAir service. We head out and go to Central Market, where they have a great spread, and catch up. After lunch we head back to the airport to pick up Amy, my sister, then head back to my place.
All of us are changing and I have about ten minutes to get to the rehearsal – and the academy is 20 minutes away. I put on my uniform for the first time, over my body armor, and get my gun belt as polished and sharp as I can make it (some of the cadets getting sworn today have bought new gun belts, so beat-up did ours get during the academy, but I’ve decided to polish mine instead). I make sure I’ve got duty ammo loaded up, and a round jacked into the chamber, my three extra mags, my ASP, my handcuffs… I don’t have my TASER yet, and as I promised, I am not carrying OC spray, so I’m set to go.
Juliana and Amy drive me to the academy, then drive home so that they can finish getting ready for the ceremony. The class is walking through it and I suddenly remember: I don’t know the code of ethics! I mean, I know the first three paragraphs of it, but not the whole damn thing!
On the first day, we were informed that a condition of our graduation was that we memorize this, stupid, insanely long code of ethics, and recite it aloud during our graduation ceremony. Like a bunch of fourth graders, we have recited this fucking thing on and off throughout the academy. GI Jane is especially good at it. I am especially not. So that you might better understand the task at hand, here is the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics:
As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.
I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not bring discredit to me, or my agency. I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.
I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities, or friendships influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.
I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public truth to be held as long as I am true to the ethics of police service. I will never engage in acts of corruption or bribery, nor will I condone such acts by other law enforcement officers. I will cooperate with all legally authorized agencies and their representatives in the pursuit of justice.
I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance and will take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve my level of knowledge and competence.
I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession…Law Enforcement.
Frankly, I think that the fact that I memorized the first three – well, let’s be honest, the first two-and-a-half – paragraphs of this fucking thing is a miracle In and of itself, worthy on its own of the issuance of a badge. But we’re now supposed to stand before a packed room and recite it? What are we, seven?
A week before, I thought I had the class going on a cunning plan. “Why not,” I said, “When The Academy Director tells everyone that we are going to recite this, and they put the words on the screen behind us and to our right, why not have Sig get us to attention, and smartly call, ‘Right FACE!’ and we all read it from the screen?”
Most of the class loved it, but my deputy chief told me that the chief of the agency that hires Sig and Lt America and Genesee would not find it funny. At all.
So we put the kibosh on that one.
And here we stood.
Understand: I’m not worried that we’re not going to graduate, as it’s far too late for that. There are four hundred people, 10 chiefs of police, 30 deputy chiefs, 50 sergeants an hundreds of family members out there; we’ve passed our exam, we’re done. I’m worried that we’re going to look even stupider than I had feared.
No biggie: if you’re not cheating, you’re not winning: GI Jane had the words printed out, and she made some photocopies, and when the time came, we all just read the fucker.
I did like it when they called my name, and used the word, “Officer” in front of it, as I came up, shook Oscar’s hand, shook Dave’s hand and received my diploma, then stood in front of and saluted the Academy Director.
The most moving part of the ceremony for me was the award for Most Valued Instructor, which we gave to Duff. He had truly inspired us, and has the solid respect of us all. As he came up to receive his award, Sig called us to attention – something not required of us – and we all snapped-to. Duff was moved, and so was I.
And we’re outta there! My only regret was that two friends couldn’t make my swearing in: Kent was unable to make it to my swearing in. He had arrived in dress uniform to the graduation ceremony, and during the ceremony itself got called into his agency because an officer had been involved in a shooting – he had to go. And Carlos, my Krav instructor, had a medical problem with his pregnant wife, and spent the evening in the hospital with her.
We – Juliana, Hunter, Amy, plus my friend Clint and the contingency from my agency – headed over to a restaurant right near my house which we had reserved for the occasion. GI Jane showed up soon after we arrived. The chief stood, and said, “Let’s do the swearing in before dinner.” And boy was I all for that – so were Juliana and Hunter, both exhausted from getting up so early and traveling, then watching this, emotions all high – plus the fact that they were jetlagged, as Texas is an hour behind New York.
The chief started saying something about getting a medical kit out of the car, and telling me it was a blood oath, and suddenly I wondered – aloud – whether I was being sworn in to the cops or initiated into the mafia.
“We take this oath as a blood oath – we take it seriously,” chief says, “You’re part of this family now, and we’re here for you. When George Washington took the oath of office, he added the words, ‘So help me God’, and our oath of office similarly goes a bit beyond what the Constitution of the State of Texas requires. I’ve asked two officers to speak to you.”
And with that, young Clayton stood, Clayton is a great, somewhat shy, officer, whom I like very much. “I just want to tell you that we’re here for you. When you need us, when your family needs us, we’ll be there for you. However we can help, whatever we can do, you can call on us, because we’re your brothers.”
Then Gilbert stood; Gilbert was in Class A, and attended my OC spraying – he’s the guy who told me to, “kiss the bottom of that cooler,” when I was rinsing off. Gilbert was awkward – as the newest officer, he felt a little out of place, I think, but he told me basically what Clayton had told me. Then the chief asked me to raise my right hand, and repeat after him the Oath of Office:
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the duties of public safety officer, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Texas and of this city. Furthermore, I will obey the lawful orders of superiors. I swear this oath on my sacred honor. So help me God.”
And with that, I was a sworn police officer.