The recruits ran with six rows of three for three miles at a time. This was after an hour of weight training, where we had to run in place while waiting for the next piece of equipment to be open. They stuck me pretty much in the middle of the class when we ran, at my request. I needed the guys behind my ass pushing me to go faster…and the momentum of the guys in front pulling me forward. It is much easier to run distances in a group, there is a reason why the military and police academies use the method, plus it builds camaraderie. Move your ass Billhymer! Okay, okay….I am going as fast as I can, I barked back. We were seventeen men and one woman…and we broke into the same song every day as we ran….I Feel Good by James Brown. The class drill instructor was threatening another mile if we didn’t pick up the speed. I was going to be a full-fledged cop in a couple of months, he could do whatever he wanted to do to me at that point. “How do you feel Billhymer?” came the yell. I feel good Drill Sergeant!
There were women in law enforcement in the late eighties, but nothing like the numbers you see today. I knew that I would have to jump in head-first at the police academy. I knew that I would have to go the extra mile if that is what it took….and I knew at one point I would have to knock one of the guys on his ass. I would have to garner the respect of my seventeen classmates by showing them that I could hold my own. Not only hold my own but also back them up when the shit hit the proverbial fan. I have always used the five-minute rule regarding aptitude to be an officer. The rule is simple…if you want to be a cop, regardless of gender, you have to maintain yourself for five minutes under ANY situation. Even if it is just rolling on the ground trying to keep someone from taking your own gun away from you. Whether under gun-fire, or fighting a lunatic on the side of the road, it’s five minutes usually until back-up arrives. If you failed in less than five minutes, you might be an injured or even dead officer.
After running everyday we would go back to the gym and practice arrest scenarios and hand to hand stuff. I was at the top of the class in academics. I was very good at the gun range and in handling scenarios where we dealt with people…live actors the academy brought in for help. The physical agility obstacle course and the running were very difficult for me though, but I gutted it out. I passed every timed performance test in the end…nothing was stopping me from being a cop, except one thing….hand to hand combat. That darn five minutes. Even though I was 5’11” tall and had size…it sure as hell wasn’t muscle! Let’s face it, men are stronger and faster in most cases. Technique was going to be key…the skinniest man in the class could bench press 4o more pounds than I could! He was not my target though, I was plotting to fight the biggest guy in the class. I needed to know if I had what it took to hit the streets. It was more than a woman versus man thing, my darn life was on the line. I needed to know that I had five minutes in me.
Taking someone down and handcuffing them was a vital part of my new job description. Generally people don’t like to go to jail, so you are trained to expect resistance. We were taught a handcuffing technique known as Aikido. This method enables someone to put themselves in a position to take anyone down, regardless of size or gender. It leveled the playing field when done correctly and I knew I had to get good at it. (YouTube it if you are curious or bored)
The problem with using the Aikido method on my male classmates was that they knew the moves too and had defensive measures to counter with. I was going to have to be clinically great with the method and maybe just a little dirty in my assigned fights. There are no rules on the street…there were very few when the whistle blew at the academy. We practiced technique and listened to instructions for about a week, then we were told the next day would be “full on” fighting. We would have to show we could fight for five minutes and then get a suspect under control….cuff and stuff him. Graduation from the academy after 4 months was soon thereafter….I would have to succeed or fail to make the cut.
We had a couple of pretty big guys in my class, but Alan was by far the biggest. He had been a college football lineman, he stood 6’4″ tall and weighed about 240…all muscle. I prearranged with the Drill Sergeant to get paired with Alan….he looked at me like I was suicidal when I whispered my request to him. The Sergeant yelled out the days pairings…there were whoops and hollers when my name was called out with the big guy. For months we had wrestled around on the mats, and learned the handcuffing technique for just about any scenario. I felt ready.
The first part of the test was demonstrating the handcuffing procedures on your paired partner. We both did well and sailed on to the last test….the fight…the five minutes I had dreaded for some time. We got into the protective padding…something we wouldn’t have on the street, and prepared for battle. Alan walked over and whispered in my ear…”don’t worry, I am not going to try and hurt you.”
I pushed him back away from me and kicked him in the groin as hard as I could with my right foot. Now mind you, there was padding in all the right places, but the kick still sent him to the ground. My point was taken as Alan then looked at me like he was going to rip my head off! The rest of the class was laughing, jumping up and down….yelling for more! I jumped on Alan before he was on his feet again and the fight was on…a legitimate fight. We rolled around on the floor and I did everything I could to prevent him from ever getting back on his feet again. Men like to fight upright with fists and punches…women tend to avoid the fight rules…anything counts.
Alan hit me several times in the head…and even with a padded helmet I felt stunned…but I kept him rolling around the floor. I locked my legs around his and held on for dear life! It seemed like an eternity, but the five minute whistle went off…we both rolled on our backs in total exhaustion. I had done it…I had survived for five minutes with as big a guy as I would ever face on the street. And…I knew he had given it his all….I felt beat up and happy.
After the class that day, Alan approached me and we chatted. He apologized about the remark before the fight, he said he realized that it was not what I needed to hear. Not what I needed to be a good cop. He said he have never fought a woman before….that he thought we played rough! I told him a woman will do whatever it takes against a man…he better be prepared for that on the street as well. Valuable lessons had been learned that day.
Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, it has taken me longer than that to write this blog. But engaging another person with your body and using every ounce of strength you have is totally exhausting. Adrenalin helps, but technique and training is what it is all about….that and a properly placed foot. In my entire law enforcement career I never fought a man as big as Alan again. He did call me once and laughed telling me that every drunk or doped up woman he had fought had tried to kick him in the crotch! Alan told me he always thought of me during those fights. It’s nice to know there is at least one man out there that thinks of me and his crotch in the same moment…even if it is only for five minutes.