One of the comedy clubs where I perform regularly is called The Stand, and it’s located on 19th Street and Third Avenue, one block south of the NYPD’s Police Academy. What makes this interesting is that, after 20 years of service, I retired from the New York City Police Department to pursue my passion, stand-up comedy, full time.
I see the police recruits in their gray uniform shirts all the time now, and it takes me right back to the days when I was a recruit. I know exactly how they feel. I know how heavy their book bags are; how much most of them hate wearing that blue French army academy hat; how much their commute into the City sucks; how much they fear being chastised by the Police Academy instructors. But most of all, I know how anxious they are to graduate so they can “hit the streets” and “fight crime”… and that’s how I differed from my classmates back in the day: I loved the Police Academy and didn’t want to leave!
The NYPD’s Police Academy is six months of intense training, and I enjoyed every second of it. I could’ve stayed for another six months or even a year. I was like Ryan Reynolds in Van Wilder. I never wanted to graduate. I was having too much fun.
I was in Company 92-55, with 30 great people. We were trapped in the Police Academy bubble out of harm’s way and New York City was paying us…TO GO TO SCHOOL! Sure, the academic portion of the academy was a drag, but it wasn’t hard. We were studying police science, not rocket science. If you paid attention during class and crammed the night before the test, you could pass. The rest of the stuff we were learning was great.
They gave us guns! And the instructors taught us how to use them. They took us up to the Rodman’s Neck Shooting Range in The Bronx and, for two weeks, we practiced shooting and tactics every day until our fingers were blistered. We shot at stationary targets, moving targets; they even had a virtual reality machine that was way more intense than any video game you’ve ever played.
We learned how to drive police cruisers at high rates of speed at Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn. That was the most nerve-wracking thing I ever did. Like ESPN’s X Games, the training was called EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operator Course.) I don’t care how good of a driver you think you are, EVOC is challenging. The hairiest part is getting the cruiser up to 60 mph and then barreling through a slalom of cones, with the turret lights and sirens blaring and using only the hand-over-hand method to navigate the cruiser. If you touched the brakes even once, you failed to qualify.
We had to take gym everyday — a mile-and-a-half run along the East River Promenade — followed by calisthenics, and then self-defense classes, all with a Police Academy Instructor up our asses yelling at us like a military drill sergeant. Civilians pay tons of money for a personal trainer to put them through the workouts we were getting in the Police Academy. For a lot of us, it was the best shape we’d ever be in.
We went swimming — there’s a pool in the basement of the Police Academy and every recruit is taught how to swim and tread water properly. We were trained on how to save someone from drowning and we were certified in CPR.
We took class trips! My favorite was to the morgue in the New York City’s Medical Examiner’s Office on 26th Street and First Avenue, where we had a chance to look at cadavers and watch an actual autopsy being performed.
We listened to lectures and got to meet police officers and detectives who worked on high-profile cases like Son of Sam.
And after each quarterly exam, all the recruits would go out partying together to let off some steam. Connolly’s Pub on West 45th, Doc Watson’s on Second Avenue, McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village, and Jake’s Dilemma on Amsterdam Avenue were just some of the haunts we frequented.
The best part of all were the NYPD uniforms, better known as the “Blue Magnet” because of the way it attracts women! Some recruits actually met their future wives while they were still in the academy.
For six months, we spent almost every waking moment of the day together. We made fun of each other, got into arguments and fights with each other, and, at times, we might have even hated each other. But we always pushed each other and made sure we were all graduating together. We formed bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime.
When I become famous, I hope I get asked to come back to speak to the recruits in the academy. I would tell them, “Relax, enjoy your time here, because it’s going to fly by and you’re going to look back one day and wish you could do it all over again.”