Before the sun rose Monday morning, 34 Baton Rouge Police recruits stood at attention, lining the hallway of the Training Academy, awaiting their next command.
"Face!" barked the Baton Rouge Police officers in charge of training. The recruits jumped to a push-up position. Up, down, up, down.
"Feet!" The recruits jumped back up, dropping their hands at their sides, eyes focused forward.
The first day of the 21-week basic training was not meant to be easy — the recruits were dripping sweat within minutes, the officers did not let up their expectations, jeers or, at times, humiliation — but it was supposed to help weed out the men and women who weren't up for the challenge of becoming a Baton Rouge Police officer.
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"Its tougher than a lot of them anticipate," said Lt. J.D. Leach, the former director of training who came Monday to observe the new class. "It's a rite of passage."
Despite the grueling first day — both mentally and physically — the 84th Basic Training Academy is a welcomed addition to the the agency, which struggled all last year with manpower shortages. This is the first of two academies city leaders have promised for 2018 to help fill the gaps that have been felt across the ranks of Baton Rouge Police — even in the homicide detective unit that was tasked with the historic number of murders in 2017.
In 2014, Baton Rouge Police Department homicide detectives worked 53 homicide cases. At that time, there were 17 officers in the unit.
Leach said it's almost a guarantee that some will not complete the training, but he hopes those who drop out or are asked to leave, are kept to a minimum.
"We need them all," Leach said.
The new academy came the same day as new Police Chief Murphy Paul will be officially sworn in to his position. Paul was supposed to speak to the recruits Monday at 8 a.m., but that was moved to later date after a scheduling issue.
BRPD has been historically criticized for its lack of diversity, something leaders have taken into consideration in recent years as they bring in new recruits. This class consists of 15 white males, 14 black males, one Hispanic male, two white females, and two black females.
At the end of July, as homicides in the parish continued to surge far ahead of last year's pace and the number of domestic violence killings …
Upon passing both the physical and academic portion of the basic training in early June, the recruits will then begin their field training working the streets of Baton Rouge alongside a current officer.