Sneak Peek: CMPD Academy’s Driving Instruction
She knew she wanted to be a police officer, but where she’d spend her career was a question for Officer Melissa Cicio. She started researching how departments were training their recruits, eventually choosing to become a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer. CMPD’s full-time paid training meant she could focus on learning the mental and physical components that would propel her career.
Today, as CMPD Academy’s lead driving instructor, Officer Cicio provides the kind of high-quality training to recruits that initially led her to Charlotte.
On-Site Driving Courses & Hands-On Training
With 26 acres of Academy grounds dedicated to the driving course, Officer Cicio and her team of instructors have enough room to create multiple courses or combine the track into one large progression for instruction, including pursuit training. Elevated platforms allow cadets to view and learn throughout the process. In the state of North Carolina, only the CMPD Academy and North Carolina Highway Patrol Training Academy have dedicated driving courses.
Officer Cicio remembers the excitement she felt as a cadet beginning driving courses but as an instructor, she knows preparing recruits for this aspect of the job is a high-stakes endeavor.
Real-World Pursuit Scenarios
“We only do a couple of types of calls for service that are inherently more dangerous than driving,” Officer Cicio says. “There’s a real liability in turning on your lights in traffic and requesting the right-of-way from citizens, not knowing how they're going to respond.”
With this in mind, Academy instructors work to recreate real-world scenarios as closely as possible for recruits. By collaborating with the department’s dispatchers, Officer Cicio and her team build training scenarios that mirror what CMPD’s finest respond to each day, from kidnappings to armed robberies and carjackings. Dispatchers themselves participate, feeding details like suspect descriptions and scene updates, rather than cadets working with role-playing instructors.
“I want you to drive toward the limits of your ability so you know what that feels like in this safe environment,” Cicio says. “When they go out on the street and have a fellow officer calling for help, I don't want them to get that adrenaline dump for the first time out there by themselves when it counts. So we really push them.”
“Not Your Grandma’s Cadillac”
At CMPD Academy, recruits put in the 40 state-mandated hours for driving instruction, plus additional training like these pursuit drills, challenging them to apply classroom learning and policy to real-world scenarios.
“We're preparing them to respond to violent crimes, preparing them mentally to understand, ‘I can't allow my adrenaline to override my common sense and my knowledge of policy,’” Officer Cicio says.
What often strikes recruits as most difficult about driving instruction is the need to multitask. Not only are they driving at high rates of speed but doing so in traffic, while scanning for a suspect and communicating on their radios.
“They have never driven their own car like this, so I tell them, ‘Look, don't baby the car, it's not your grandma's Cadillac, you're not going to church on Sunday,’” Officer Cicio says. “They’re being asked to drive hard and they can see how their driving has improved every time they get on the course. They've learned something or picked it up while listening to one of their peers being instructed and get to immediately apply it and see dividends in higher scores or faster times.”
CMPD Academy driving instructors pride themselves on training the officers they know will go out onto the streets to protect their city and the citizens of Charlotte. Officer Cicio doesn’t hesitate in calling the Academy’s training and quality of officers second to none. Begin your own career journey at the Academy when you apply to join an upcoming recruit class.