They were the nicest people I’ve ever had screaming in my face.
To be fair, I had given correctional officers Valerie Galloway and Acting Lieut. Curtis Janes permission.
“Do you want me to yell at you? Or do you want me just be gentle?” Galloway had asked, preparing to help motivate me she put me through my paces in the correctional officer physical ability test (COPAT) Wednesday.
“Yell at me. I’ll need it,” I told her. And I did.
Designed to simulate activities correctional officers use during the course of their jobs, the COPAT is a grueling obstacle course that consists of running around and hurdling obstacles, climbing up and down a flight of stairs six times, pushing and then pulling a 70-pound weight through a 180-degree arc, and a final nightmare in which participants must fall to the floor flat on their belly, stand up, climb over a rail, then fall flat on their back on the other side before getting up and repeating the process four more times.
As part of a friendly competition for Corrections Week, Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP) staff invited members of the media in to complete the test in the prison gym Wednesday.
“Remember, your time won’t stop until you stand up on your two feet by yourself,” Galloway, who’s the prison’s training instructor, told me and other reporters.
It seemed like a weird thing to say until I got to the point where I had climbed the rail and thrown myself on my back for the fifth time, and realized I was going to have to get up. Galloway had also told us we’d only know we had completed the test correctly if we felt nauseous at the end.
I had success (see the second photo for proof).
The COPAT is part of the screening process for anyone wanting to become a correctional officer — like most of HMP’s staff of 150, and 26 new recruits currently in training, who stopped by the gym earlier in the week to have another go — and candidates are encouraged to start training a few months in advance. In order to pass the test, participants must complete the COPAT in 3 minutes, 20 seconds or less.
I finished with a time of 2:42, thanks to Galloway’s motivation, and then watched as Janes successfully completed the test in uniform, including his 30-pound Kevlar vest.
I left with a new appreciation for the challenges of these officers’ jobs — and a burning in my lungs.
Corrections Week events began Monday with the presentation of honour guard services medals during a ceremony at Government House, and has seen officers participating in physical challenges, visiting local schools to serve breakfast, and being recognized with an appreciation lunch at HMP.
The week will end a fundraising barbecue at the prison for the Law Enforcement Torch Run, in aid of Special Olympics Newfoundland and Labrador.
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