HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Not just anyone can get a badge. Just to qualify to take the Law Enforcement Training Class you have to be 21, have a high school diploma, GED or a 15 on the ACT, and you must pass a background test.
Then you have to pass a fitness test that consists of four parts: agility, flexibility, push ups and running. And it isn't until after you make the cut that the real work begins.
We attended a five month class in Hancock County for those who want to become a part time sheriff deputy. The men and women are required to go through the same training it takes to become a full time officer. The only difference they have to do all the training in half the classroom time. That calls for a lot of self motivation and discipline.
Student John Compton said, "It's intense, very thorough; it's not a joke."
The students learn about guns, drugs and laws, as well as basic first aid. What may seem like a simple task - driving fast to chase a suspect - takes special training. Even how to draw your weapon is not as easy as it looks in the movies.
The instructors try to put students in stressful situations to make it seem like real life.
"It was more learning how to breathe and react when it comes to certain situations and not exploding," student Kiara Mayors said. "Just be able to make decisions under pressure."
That's a hard thing to prepare anyone for, but it begins in the classroom.
Academy Director Captain Todd Drummond said, "What we do is give them all the perfect scenarios in class they learn all the possibles, trainings, variables that can happen."
After every class, there is a written test. Then they must put the lesson into action.
In one of the classes, trainees get a dose of mace and were forced to chase and arrest a bad guy. This way the students not only know how it feels to be maced, but they also know how to react if they are ever sprayed.
"It felt like the devil pissed in my face," student John Compton said. "All you want to do is lay on the ground and cry."
Student Shane Robinson said, "It felt like someone threw fire in my eyes and in my face. It takes your breath away, takes your vision away. Imagine soap being in your eyes; it's like 100 times worse than that."
After finishing the course, the men and women run to the hose to wash off their faces. Many then stand in front of a fan trying to ease the pain.
"The fan helps a little bit," Robinson said, "but I'm just ready for somebody to shoot me."
Most agree mace, or OC spray as they call it, is the worst part of the class. They say it is even tougher than having 50,000 volts of electricity rush through their body from a taser.
All students are required to get tased in order to be able to carry a the weapon.
"It was definitely a once in a lifetime thing," student Ian Larsen said. "It felt horrible, but not quite as painful as getting sprayed with OC spray, that's for sure."
Student Kiara Mayors said, "I think I would do this ten times before I get OC'd again."
The students are held by two of their classmates, then the teacher shoots the taser at their back. For five seconds they are shocked. Most scream and fall to the ground; their classmates help lower them so they don't hurt themselves.
"That was the worst five seconds of my life," Dallas Foreman said. "I never want to do that again."
Passing the mace and taser exercises isn't the end. Trainees must pass a final exam and pass the physical training test a second time. But in this round, the requirements are tougher.
"It's a light workout as long as you are somewhat physically fit," Hancock County Physical Training Sgt. Mike Sturman.
Almost every time the class is taught Sgt. Sturman said people fail because they cannot pass the final PT test.
"Usually push ups and the run are what people will never overcome," Sgt. Sturman said.
In her 50s, Deandra Burnett was worried about passing the run, but with a little motivation from her class members she finished the mile and a half with just seconds to spare.
"It feels great," Burnett said. "I've worked a long time for this, started out in transport at the jail and this is what I want to do, so I'm glad it's over with."
So why do these women and men pay hundreds of dollars to put themselves through this intense training? They say it's their passion to help the community.
"I like to help people; if I can help one person that would be good," Mayors said. "We are here to protect and serve."
Eleven out of the 12 class members received their badges. They will now go through six months of field training where they start out with another officer and eventually learn to be on their own.
Want to see if you have what it takes to pass the physical training test? You must score a 50 or above to get into the academy, but you must get a 70 to graduate. Below are the requirements to graduate:
Agility Run (in seconds)
Trunk Flexion Standards (in inches)
Push Ups (must complete in 2 minutes)
1.5 Mile Run (in minutes)