Citizens on Patrol

The Phoenix Police Department in Arizona created the Citizens’ Police Academy to give community members an opportunity to learn what the department does and why they do it. I attended the Academy in October and November 2012 with more than 25 other people.  My fellow Academy members included people of different ages and ethnicities as well as immigrants from seven other countries.

I applied because I wanted to better understand police work.  I also thought that understanding police work in a more formal way would help me with a mystery novel I’ve been trying to write. If I’m going to write a convincing story about murder, I should have a better understanding of how one is investigated.

During our Academy experience, my classmates and I were introduced to different aspects of police work:  professional standards (what some departments call ‘internal affairs’), media relations, document crimes, robbery, homicide, dynamics of deadly force encounters, the special assignments unit (what some departments call ‘SWAT’), communications, air support, the K9 unit, and the silent witness program.

The Citizens’ Police Academy was a remarkable learning experience.  I learned new things every class, but there were some extra special experiences.

During our tour of the Communications Bureau, we learned that about 255 operators take more than 1 million 911 calls and nearly 1 million Crime Stop calls each year. ‘911’ is a number used across the United States, for people to get help in any type of emergency by calling one telephone number.  911 operators send calls to the police, the fire department or emergency medical assistance, depending on the emergency.  Crime Stop is the main number citizens can call to report crimes that are not emergencies.

During the presentation on deadly force encounters, we learned about the physical and mental challenges of high stress situations, and how the body reacts to such stress.  For example, under high stress conditions, 85% of people lose a little bit of their hearing and 80% of people experience tunnel vision.  For police officers, such high stress situations occur regularly. The officer presenting the information to us said that the extensive training police officers receive is an attempt to control these natural reactions to stressors.

One of my classmates asked a question. Since he had learned that highly trained police officers still experience physical and mental challenges like when drawing a weapon, he wondered why ordinary Americans, who receive little or no training about how to deal with these challenges, are allowed to carry guns. Would it not be more reasonable to not allow ordinary citizens to have guns? I think we were all wondering the same thing.

Following this presentation, we were taken out to the department’s shooting range, where each of us was given the opportunity to fire a hand gun. I first ‘dry’ fired a Glock.  (Dry firing is learning to aim and fire without live ammunition.)  I was then given a fully-loaded Glock (.45 caliber) and allowed to shoot at a paper target.  I was surprised that I liked the experience.

After graduating on November 8, I joined the Citizens’ Policy Academy alumni group, which organizes continuing education opportunities for graduates.  I look forward to continuing opportunities to learn more about police work – with or without a gun.

Original article by Rita Marko – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team.

Citizens on Patrol Quiz: Medium

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Because I wanted to better understand police work, I joined the Citizen’s Police Academy in Phoenix in Arizona.  I attended the Academy with 25 other people. I also thought that understanding police more would help me with a novel I wanted to write. If I want my story to be believable, I must understand how everything works.

I learned about many new things. Professional standards (internal affairs), media relations, document crimes, robbery, homicide, the special units (SWAT), the silent witness program and much more. The Citizens’ Police Academy was a great experience.  I learned new things every class, but there were some really interesting things.

During our tour of the Communications Bureau, we learned that about 255 operators take more than 1 million 911 calls and nearly 1 million Crime Stop calls each year. ‘911’ is a number used across the United States for people to get help in any type of emergency by calling one telephone number.  911 operators send calls to the police, the fire department or emergency medical assistance, depending on the emergency.  Crime Stop is the main number citizens can call to report crimes that are not emergencies.

I also learned about the physical and mental challenges of high stress situations, and how the body reacts to such stress.  For example, under high stress conditions, 85% of people lose a little bit of their hearing and 80% of people experience tunnel vision.

I also had the chance to shoot a gun.  After hitting a paper target, I was surprised that I liked the experience.

I look forward to continuing opportunities to learn more about police work – with or without a gun.

Original article by Rita Marko – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team.

Citizens on Patrol Quiz: Mild

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The Phoenix Police Department in Arizona created the Citizens’ Police Academy to provide community members with an opportunity to learn what the department does and why they do it. I attended the Academy in October and November 2012 with more than 25 other people.  Academy members represented a broad spectrum of Phoenix citizens, differing in gender, age and ethnicity.  Immigrants from seven countries: Bhutan, Burma, Cuba, Iraq, Sudan, Thailand and Togo participated in the class.

I applied because I wanted to better understand police work.  I had previously worked with members of the very small police force on the Skokomish Indian Reservation in Washington, writing grants to help fund the department.  I had very little contact with the Phoenix Police Department – and the little contact that I have had did not leave me with a terribly good impression.  I also felt that understanding police work in a more formal way would help me with recent efforts to write a mystery novel.  While I have no intention of writing a ‘police procedural,’ if I’m going to write a convincing story about murder, I really ought to have a better understanding of how one is investigated.

Over the course of our Academy experience, my classmates and I were introduced to different aspects of police work:  professional standards (what some departments call ‘internal affairs’), media relations, document crimes, robbery, homicide, dynamics of deadly force encounters, the special assignments unit (what some departments call ‘SWAT’), communications, air support, the K9 unit, and the silent witness program.

The Citizens’ Police Academy was a remarkable learning experience.  While each Thursday night yielded new information or provided a startling insight, there were a number of experiences that stand out.

During our tour of the Communications Bureau, we learned that about 255 operators take more than 1 million 911 calls and nearly 1 million Crime Stop calls each year. ‘911’ is a number utilized across the United States, whereby citizens can obtain help in an emergency of any kind by dialing one telephone number.  911 operators route calls to police patrol officers, the fire department or emergency medical assistance, depending on the nature of the emergency.  Crime Stop is the main number citizens can call to report crimes that are not emergencies.

I sat with one operator for about 45 minutes, listening to live calls. Each operator is stationed in front of a computer with multiple screens that provide her with information and allow her to input information as she takes it from a caller. Ninety percent of 911 calls are answered within 10 seconds. Operators work quickly to determine the nature of the call and whether the situation is life threatening.  During my brief time with the operator, she fielded calls about excessive noise from an apartment complex, a domestic dispute that spilled out of a house and into the street, a man (possibly drunk) lying in the roadway of a very busy street, a mentally-challenged adult who had been missing for two days (last seen in her pajamas), and other similar situations.

During the presentation on deadly force encounters, we learned about the physical and mental challenges of high stress situations, as well as the body’s instinctive reactions to such stress.  For example, under such high stress conditions, 85% of people experience diminished hearing capacity while 80% of people experience tunnel vision.  For police officers, such high stress situations occur regularly and do not necessarily entail drawing their weapons. The officer presenting the information to us further explained that the extensive training police officers receive is an attempt to control or counter these natural reactions to stressors.

One of my classmates – a quiet, unassuming man from Burma – raised his hand.  He explained that he was puzzled.  After learning how highly trained police officers still experience physical and mental challenges when drawing a weapon, he wondered why ordinary Americans, who receive little to no training to counteract these effects, are allowed to carry guns. Would it not be more reasonable to prohibit ordinary citizens from carrying guns? I suspect we were all wondering the same thing.

Following this presentation, we were taken out to the department’s shooting range, where each of us was given the opportunity to fire a hand gun. Frankly, I had not fired a gun in more than 25 years and have always been slightly intimidated by weapons.  With a very patient instructor at my side, I first ‘dry’ fired a Glock.  (Dry firing is learning to aim and fire without live ammunition.)  I was then given a fully-loaded Glock (.45 caliber) and allowed to shoot at a paper target.  I had a similar reaction to that of some of my classmates – curiously, a stronger reaction among the women than the men with whom I spoke – I liked it.  I liked the physicality of shooting and successfully hitting the target in the designated zone.

After graduating on November 8, I joined the Citizens’ Policy Academy alumni group, which organizes continuing education opportunities for graduates.  Recently, I attended a program on Homeland Security and illegal immigration with about 30 other alumni – only one of whom had been in my original class. I look forward to continuing opportunities to learn more about police work – with or without a gun.

Rita Marko – Phoenix, Arizona

Citizens on Patrol Quiz: Spicy

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