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What do Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department recruits most often underestimate during their driving instruction at the Academy?

You might be surprised by Officer Chrissy Pickert’s answer.

As CMPD’s lead driving instructor, Officer Pickert oversees both the classroom instruction and practical driving experience recruits receive in training. Prior to becoming a driving instructor, Officer Pickert served as a basic law enforcement training (BLET) general instructor and a police training officer in the Freedom Division.

Here’s her download on what police recruits can expect to learn, and how to prepare and excel in their training behind the wheel.

What driving instruction do recruits receive at the Academy?

Recruits start with 12 hours of classroom training on topics including following distances, emergency response, pursuit driving and legal considerations. Then they move to the driving track for an additional 40 hours of practical training behind the wheel.

What can recruits expect on the department’s driving course?

The City Vehicle Operations Center (CVOC) encompasses 24 acres and houses two classroom buildings and two observation decks. The CVOC is utilized by CMPD and other city and county entities including the Charlotte Fire Department, Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) and MEDIC.

There are traffic control signals on the main stretch of the runway and in the lower neighborhood area. This allows recruits to experience realistic, scenario-based training.

In addition, the lights can be utilized in a driving course, which allows officers to see and understand reaction time and stopping distances at varying speeds.

How are recruits tested – in writing, hands-on in the vehicle, or both?

Recruits are required to pass a written test and demonstrate proficiency on the state-mandated cone courses. The state mandated courses include:

  • Offset Lane Maneuver
  • Fixed Radius Curve
  • Precision Exercise
  • Serpentine Exercise
  • Evasive Exercise
  • Emergency Response Driving
  • Pursuit Driving 

How can recruits practice their driving skills before they get to the Academy?

Recruits and potential applicants should always be practicing good driving habits.

A lot of recruits tend to struggle with backing. The best way to become more comfortable at backing is to do it! Start backing in any time you park your vehicle. Learn how to use your mirrors or look out of the rear window to move in reverse. Do not rely on the backup camera.

What portion(s) of driving instruction do recruits most underestimate?

Recruits underestimate the impact emotions have on driving. Being able to control the psychological and physiological effects is key.

Recruits must stay calm behind the wheel, focus on breathing and concentrate on one course at a time. Instructors are going to teach the skills to make recruits successful. Recruits must be able to listen, take constructive criticism and apply the skills that are being taught. 

How can recruits get extra help if they’re struggling with a particular driving skill?

Instructors teach recruits one-on-one. This allows instructors to spend time working on the driving skills recruits might be struggling with.

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