TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Learning to drive like a police officer takes skill and hours of training behind the wheel. But as the Pima County Sheriff's Department slowly updates its fleet from the Crown Victoria model to SUVs, the driver training for new recruits is changing too.
"This driving is for stressful driving, it's not for everyday driving," said Deputy Mo Othic with the Pima County Sheriff's Department.
Othic has taught new recruits how to drive for 10 years and says it involves learning how to drive both offensively and defensively.
"We teach them to go deep and wide and also shuffle steering, where our hands are at three and nine," said Othic. "Then when we come up to a turn, we position ourselves deep in the turn and our hands never cross over."
Othic says they no longer teach new recruits how to perform a J-turn, a quick maneuver that involves driving in reverse before yanking the steering wheel to turn.
"Most agencies are going to the higher profile vehicles away from the Crown Victorias and the Tahoes flip easier," said Othic.
Recruits spend 40 hours learning these driving skills. 9OYS rode along with PSCD Recruit George Denniman as he took a few practice laps.
"It's completely different from what I'm used to," said Denniman. "So it's almost like having to learn to walk again."
To pass the 10-turn course, recruits have to complete one lap in less than one minute and 20 seconds. Hitting a cone results in a two second penalty.
"One of the instructors is sitting in the passenger side and staring at your hands making sure you do everything right," said Denniman. "There's a little bit of pressure there but you get a little bit more relaxed the more you do it."
Even though it looks extreme, Othic says this is something these new deputies will use almost on a daily basis.
"We get their adrenaline going, get them used to that and then they know their limits at that point," he said. "They know how to control the car."