The Fort Smith Police Department held its eighth Basic Police Academy graduation at the Regional Training Center Friday morning.
The 13 graduates began their training on August 20 and have since completed 546 hours of training.
The police academy provides education in basic criminal law, defense tactics, emergency vehicle operations and firearm training. The top ranking officers were awarded for their outstanding scores in these areas.
"I know it's been pretty vigorous," said David Stevens, father of one of the graduates, about his son's training at the academy. "He's gotten some pretty tough training - some actual hands on battling. It's been pretty tough."
Damon Reeder, a Friday graduate and officer with the Fort Smith Police Department, said they worked hard to complete the training.
"It brings the emotion level up," said Officer Reeder. "There have been times that a lot of us have thought, 'Man, are we going to make it through this?' It's tough - not only physically but emotionally."
The officers said they're thankful for their strong support systems.
"Lots of hours, lots of time away from the family," said Officer Dale Teague of the Lavaca Police Department. "[My wife] supports me 100 percent. She's just as involved as I am because it takes both of us."
The instructors at the academy simulate scenarios new officers might encounter on a day-to-day basis. All the while stressing the real world can be unpredictable.
"These guys are going to go out to hit the streets, and they're going to see things that they've never seen before," said Corporal Steven Dooly, an instructor at the academy and member of the Fort Smith Police Department. "I've been in law enforcement for 16 years, and just when you think that you've seen everything, a new situation pops up."
These unique experiences have helped the officers to form close relationships that will last for years to come.
“The bonds we’ve shared through this – through the physical training aspect of it – we push each other, and it’s helped a lot of us get through,” said Officer Reeder.
"It's something that you’ll carry on forever," said Officer Teague. "It’s kind of like anybody that’s been in the military. It’s the same thing. Including the instructors. We’ll probably continue to keep contact. Some probably closer than others, but it’s a bond you can’t create anywhere else.”
The Fort Smith Police Department founded a police academy in 2006. In total, they have graduated 119 police officers making up eight classes.
The officers who graduated on Friday are employed by seven local law enforcement agencies.