It’s not easy to quickly jump a 6-foot brick wall, run 1½ miles in under 14 minutes, and drag someone several feet. But in order to pass a preapplication test to become a sworn law enforcement officer, applicants face some daunting state requirements.
A few years ago, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office started offering a free boot camp class a few times a year to prepare people interested in law enforcement for the fitness component of the preapplication process. On a sunny Saturday morning, six people from around the Bay Area arrived at the track at the College of San Mateo. After a brief warmup, the six lined up, ready for their mile-and-a-half run.
“It’s all about discipline,” said Mel Roberts, who recently retired after several years of service with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. Roberts now assists with recruitment efforts that include the boot camp.
As the six run around the track, Roberts holds onto his stopwatch, timing the group.
For Hayward resident Neydi Joachin, joining this boot camp series was a way to prove she can find a career in law enforcement. This is her second time completing the boot camp, but this go-around Joachin is confident she can meet her goals.
“Everything was working against me — my age, my kids — and it was blocking the wall for me,” Joachin said. “But I know now I am ready to do this. I feel prepared. I want to work with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, that is my goal and my dream.”
It’s been five years since the first boot camp course, which was started by San Mateo County Sheriff Capt. Christina Corpus as a way to encourage more women to apply. Since then, Lt. Stephanie Josephson took over the series and expanded the program to also offer a co-ed boot camp series as well as the women-only courses.
Josephson, who’s been in law enforcement for about 20 years, said she has seen a lot of women go on to enjoy successful careers at the Sheriff’s Office.
The boot camp curriculum is designed to train women and men on physical elements of the test required to submit an application at the Sheriff’s Office. After participants finish the boot camp, Josephson said, about 1 in 5 will submit an application to work in law enforcement.
Josephson explained that while there is a significant emphasis on fitness during the preapplication process and in the police academy, it is not always maintained once people are hired as a law enforcement officer. However, staying fit throughout a career in law enforcement was a theme on Saturday.
“Realistically, is a cop ever going to run a mile and a half in a day? Probably not, but it is about keeping up with overall health,” Josephson said. “This job can stress you in other ways, so it is about keeping good cardiovascular health.”
San Mateo resident Tuli Mapa is currently working as a driver for a document destruction company. He joined the boot camp because he was looking for a complete lifestyle change.
“I know this can help me change my way of living,” Mapa said. “I respect law enforcement, and seeing what they do makes me want to go out there and see if I have what it takes.”
Mapa said that since joining the boot camp a month ago, he’s already noticed he’s improved his 1½-mile time and feels ready to take and pass the physical test.
Qualifications include running 1½ miles under 14 minutes, running a 500-yard sprint in under 3 minutes, dragging a weighted dummy in under nine seconds, completing an obstacle course in under 24 seconds and scaling both a solid and chain-link fence.
Throughout the boot camp, participants are coached on ways to improve their times on the various tasks, as well as ways to eat healthy to complement their training efforts. Additionally, Josephson also prepares participants on the application and interview process at the Sheriff’s Office. Josephson explained the benefit of the boot camp is that participants “know what they have to work on, or some feel they are ready to apply right after the course is done.”
After nearly four hours of working out, her fellow boot camp participants cheered Joachin on as she completed 10 pushups for her final effort of the day. Joachin said she is confident that by this time next year she will be returning to the boot camp class, but this time in a uniform.