Alleged Reckless Leadership Leads to Fatal Police Academy Training Incident

This case study examines a tragic incident where a new police academy recruit died during an intense physical training session, allegedly due to the instructor's reckless behavior and violation of industry-standard protocols.

ByZach Barreto


Published on January 30, 2024

Instructor at police training

Case Overview

This case study examines an incident involving an adult who tragically lost their life on the first day of physical training at a police academy. The event took place in July, during an intense outdoor training session with a heat index of 106.

The rigorous regimen included sprinting, push-ups, burpees, and other strenuous exercises without providing water breaks or restroom access to the new officers. This harsh approach bore more resemblance to hazing than standard law enforcement training.

Allegations have been made that the instructor's reckless behavior and violation of industry-standard training protocols led to this tragic outcome. An expert in law enforcement training was sought to review the case and provide an opinion on liability.

Questions to the Law Enforcement expert and their responses


Please briefly describe your experience as a head law enforcement instructor at a police academy.

I served eight years at the Kentucky State Police Academy, five of which were spent as a staff-level instructor and three as the Commander. My duties as an instructor involved coordinating and leading various types of training, including physical fitness activities similar to those described in this case. As the Commander, my responsibilities extended to ensuring that proper precautions were taken and adhered to during these sessions.


What standards exist for physical fitness tests in order to prevent an incident like this?

There are several resources available that provide guidelines for conducting physical fitness tests safely. These include data from the National Weather Service regarding heat index, local weather data, recommendations from the National Association of Chiefs of Police, state-specific guidelines such as those from Arkansas, U.S. Military branches' guidelines, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers' protocols, among others. However, there isn't one central document utilized across all state police or police training academies addressing health concerns related to heat index.


Have you ever reviewed a similar case? If yes, please elaborate.

I have not previously reviewed a case exactly like this one. However, my extensive experience in law enforcement training and leadership roles at the police academy has equipped me with the necessary knowledge to provide an informed opinion on this matter.

About the expert

This expert boasts over 25 years of experience in law enforcement, holding various roles such as criminal investigations coordinator, field training officer program coordinator, and commander for a state police department. They transitioned into academia after their law enforcement career, serving as an adjunct instructor of criminal justice for a community and technical college system. Currently, they are the CEO and managing member of a law enforcement consulting firm and hold a private investigator license, demonstrating their continued involvement and expertise in the field.

Expert headshot



About the author

Zach Barreto

Zach Barreto

Zach Barreto is a distinguished professional in the legal industry, currently serving as the Senior Vice President of Research at the Expert Institute. With a deep understanding of a broad range of legal practice areas, Zach's expertise encompasses personal injury, medical malpractice, mass torts, defective products, and many other sectors. His skills are particularly evident in handling complex litigation matters, including high-profile cases like the Opioids litigation, NFL Concussion Litigation, California Wildfires, 3M earplugs, Elmiron, Transvaginal Mesh, NFL Concussion Litigation, Roundup, Camp Lejeune, Hernia Mesh, IVC filters, Paraquat, Paragard, Talcum Powder, Zantac, and many others.

Under his leadership, the Expert Institute’s research team has expanded impressively from a single member to a robust team of 100 professionals over the last decade. This growth reflects his ability to navigate the intricate and demanding landscape of legal research and expert recruitment effectively. Zach has been instrumental in working on nationally significant litigation matters, including cases involving pharmaceuticals, medical devices, toxic chemical exposure, and wrongful death, among others.

At the Expert Institute, Zach is responsible for managing all aspects of the research department and developing strategic institutional relationships. He plays a key role in equipping attorneys for success through expert consulting, case management, strategic research, and expert due diligence provided by the Institute’s cloud-based legal services platform, Expert iQ.

Educationally, Zach holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and European History from Vanderbilt University.

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