The public safety training program within which I’m enrolled at Rio Hondo College began its second module yesterday. In the first module the physical aspect of the course was minimized. And initially this module wasn’t going to focus much stronger upon it. But that changed early on in the first module when the schedule for this one was amended — in large part to better prepare us for the third module, in which our endurance and fitness and exposure to real-world experiences will be most regularly tested.

So we got down to brass tacks yesterday, and after a discussion and lecture from our instructors we transitioned from the classroom to the mat room, for the first short version of what’s to be 20 Physical Training (PT) sessions over the course of the module, and what honestly was but a teeny little taste of how much more my ass is going to get kicked.

To quote one of the instructors afterwards, “This was the easiest it’s ever going to be.”

“Easy” and abbreviated as it was, this one kicked my ass, too. It consisted of a variety of warm-up movements and short sprints, followed by 20 regulated pushups (Down and hold. Up and hold. “One Sir!” Down and hold. Up and hold. “Two Sir!”). Those were immediately followed by 10 “downdownupups” (for lack of the proper nomenclature), in which one starts at pushup position, goes down on one elbow then the other elbow so that you’re then at plank position. Then you climb back up to pushup position from one elbow and then the other: Down! Down! Up! Up! “One Sir!”

I managed to do everything well enough not to draw the attention and derision of the instructors (i.e., I put out 100%; aka I didn’t pull a hamstring during the sprints, or vomit, or fall flat on my stomach after the seventeenth pushup or eighth downdownupup crying in fully fatigued agony).

But I certainly drew a scowl shortly afterward back in the classroom as we commenced that evening’s instruction on property crimes.

Getting from PT back to that classroom was bridged by a tight 25 minutes allotted to shower and change from our PT gear into our full Class B uniforms and form up outside. I accomplished that with several minutes to spare but by the time I took my seat in the class I was one dazed (and still hot and sweating) mess. And just in time to be on the receiving end of a question from the instructor.

“Campbell! What is probable cause? Go!”

But I didn’t “Go!” In those moments afterward, I sat there blankly staring out from my desk and wracking my fogged brain and I seriously couldn’t come up with anything resembling a definition or explanation of what’s one of — if not THE — most crucial element of the law enforcement job I hope to one day obtain.

Finally I owned my ignorance and shook my head telling the instructor that at that present moment I was at a total and complete loss for words — which was true. Unacceptable, but true. I swear, if he’d asked “Campbell! What’s your last name? Go!” I would’ve had to fight to keep from looking at my driver license.

Anyway. If they gave prizes for scowls, the one he gave me was award-winning and it was followed rhetorically by “Are you kidding me?”

I was very much not, and very much ashamed.

Of course, if the instructor called me on the phone right now and asked me to define probable cause after my good night’s sleep and breakfast with me sitting in my comfy chair and not a pushup or downdownupup in sight, I’d be able to tell him that probable cause is the facts and circumstances that present themselves, allowing an officer to conclude that a crime is or has been committed. Or I could say that probable cause is what must exist for an arrest or search to be made without a warrant.

But that’s not how things work in this career I’ve set my sights on, and what happened yesterday is something of a mirror image or microcosm of what very well may happen in the field. It’s totally conceivable that I might endure a period of intense physical exertion followed near immediately by a debriefing, and I most certainly won’t have the luxuries of rest and food in between.

And that’s the gut-check lesson learned in between the physical and academic lessons taught last night. There’s no time-out in this game. I’ve got to man up, get my mind right and get to that physical and mental ready-state — and quick.