Rhode Island State Police recruits hit the boxing ring for training

In a garage on the campus of Rhode Island State Police headquarters in Scituate, the latest round of a long-running rite of passage is wrapping up. Recruits in the training academy put on headgear, wear mouthpieces, and wrap tape around boxing gloves before stepping through the ropes of a boxing ring.Rhode Island State Police argue the boxing program for recruits going through their training academy is as intense as any in the country for police. "I'd say it's pretty unique," Lt. Col. Kevin Barry told NBC 10 News. Boxing trainer Pete Grundy said, "We do like 10 full contact sessions. And nobody does that." Barry said recruits have been hurt, have been knocked out. "There have been recruits who've come to this phase of training and have decided it's not for them based on the fact that they got hit and that their reaction wasn't what would actually be able to save their life," Barry said. But he also said safety comes first. "They're well prepared for this," Barry said. "We don't just throw them in there." For more than 25 years, recruits coming through the academy have been under the boxing tutelage of Grundy, a long-time trainer who is quick with his hands and his instruction. "Be first. Nice. Move. Good. Move. Move. Good. Get out of there, Miguel. Beautiful," Grundy barked while moving around the ring as two recruits boxed. "Downstairs. Upstairs. To the body. Combinations," Grundy said while showing the moves recruits have learned. "There's nothing worse than throwing too many punches. Now you got no gas in the tank. What's going to happen if you're on the road and there's no gas in your tank? Now you're in trouble. What are they going to do? Get your gun? Kill you? Kill your partner? Kill the person on the scene?" The idea, they said, isn't as much about being able to throw a punch as it is being able to take one. "Being able to protect themselves is the key component here," Barry said. State Police leaders wouldn't let NBC 10 interview the recruits about taking punches. But the brass went through it when they were recruits, too, and pointed out a lot of recruits these days have probably never been in a fight before they enroll in the academy. "We want to see how they're going to react once they actually do get hit," Barry said. "Our fear is that we put somebody out on the street and that's the first time they've actually been in a physical confrontation." Addressing a question about liability concerns, Barry said, "Any time there's training like this, there's liability that goes with anything we do in law enforcement. I'm a firm believer in that that liability is mitigated by this training." He argued troopers will be better equipped to diffuse or deal with a fight when there is one, keeping their cool and keeping them from getting hurt. "As much as it is physical, it is mental," Barry said of the boxing. The current class of recruits is expected to graduate from the academy at the end of July. About half of the recruits who started the program have dropped out.

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