I’ve spent the last 8 weeks taking a one evening a week class (free) with our local emergency services crew. While I call it the Citizen’s Police Academy since two-thirds of the classes were with the PD, it is actually called the Emergency Services Academy. This is something our local PD, Fire Department (volunteer) and EMS (also volunteer) put on as a community outreach program, and as I’ve found out, many communities around the country also put on similar programs. I heard about it through a friend who partook with his community services, and sure enough our village did an annual class as well. It was a totally awesome experience and something I can’t recommend highly enough, especially for men.
We did six classes as I’ll outline below. Unfortunately I had to miss the last one because I was sick, but am hoping to jump into next year’s class.
- Introduction/tour: got a chance to see the full station, intro to the PD structure, met some of the officers, got to handle some of their standard equipment from fire arms to tasers to vests and batons. Saw their evidence processing procedures, equipment for measuring BAC for OWI offenses, and so on.
- Simunitions: We spent maybe 45 minutes discussing use of deadly force and it’s applications, then spent another hour and a half or so doing various simulated scenarios in an empty office building. We used Glock handguns and AR-15 rifles that were modified slightly to shoot soap bullets (a colored hard soap with a black powder shell charge). The bullets left a colored mark on the police officers and a nice welt as well. Being in these simulations showed really how fast things happen and how quick the officers need to make a decision. When your adrenaline is pumping, like it was for us doing the shooting, you get total tunnel vision. I certainly respect the fact that officers, even if they were allowed to “shoot to wound” instead of kill in these situations almost can’t. You’re aiming for large vital organs because your mind can’t focus on much else. Very interesting.
- EVOC – or Emergency Vehicle Operations Course. We went out to a local racetrack and got to drive various cop cars through an obstacle course. It was tight maneuvering, at speeds reaching up to 40 mph, with quick decision making required. I took each vehicle to it’s limit and had the lights going with an occasional siren blast (which they told me to stop). Drove a Taurus, Crown Vic and I think a Ford Police Interceptor that they used as the K-9 car. After driving, we watched as the officers went through a few scenarios when pulling people over, in high risk situations, how they behaved and why.
- K-9, Drugs and OWI (operating while intoxicated) – learned about the dog program, how it got started, what they use the dog for (drug searches in vehicles, in warrants with drugs, tracking), how they train him and so on. The real gem of this class was the OWI. Brief intro on the sobriety tests they use (eye test or nystagmus, walk heel-to-toe, turn and return, balance on one leg with other leg off the floor), then they had three volunteers take the tests sober. After passing, the volunteers were provided a handle (1.75 L) of Captain Morgans spiced rum and proceded to get shit-faced over the next hour and a half. They drank more than the police sergeant wanted (they were blowing .18 to .21 – totally retard drunk), but still served the purpose of running them through the field sobriety test again. The biggest one was the nystagmus as that’s a tough one to fool. Basically, when intoxicated, your eyes jump as they track an object horizontally. When asked to hold your gaze at the periphery, the eyes bounce there too.
- DAAT/Taser – DAAT (Defense and Arrest Tactics) and Taser class was the one I missed. We were going to be allowed to be tased if we wanted, and I did, and was disappointed I missed it. I’m hoping to be allowed to sit in on that class next year when they do it.
We spent two classes with the fire department, basically demoing equipment and playing with all their cool toys. We suited up in their full gear, got to cut up a car with the jaws of life, and break and saw it’s windows, got to shoot fire hoses, went up 100′ in the air in their ladder truck, did some calisthenics in their SCBA gear and went on a ride in the truck at night, sirens blazing, cars pulling over, the whole nine yards. Much respect here for these guys. Though most often they deal with EMS assistance and BS calls, when they actually go into a structure fire, the stories they tell sound scary as hell (basically zero visibility and finding the fire source using thermal imaging now…old school way was to feel for the hot room where the fire was).
Got to check out the EMS facility, which is volunteer, but you have to sign up for at least a 6 hour shift every month. They have living quarters (bedrooms, living rooms, kitchen, gym area) there so when you’re doing a shift you can be out the door in three minutes. We then got to play with a special training dummy inserting fake IV, doing EKG readings, pulse, resuscitation simulation and AED pads. I didn’t realize either that the new method of CPR basically is just chest compressions since it takes so long for the blood to pump back around after stopping and your blood already has oxygen. By the time it drops low enough, the medics should be there. After playing with their dummy, we then got to simulate doing some of these things in the back of a moving ambulance. Chest compressions get pretty hard and tiring while trying to stabilize against the moving vehicle.
Next week is our wrap up. I can say the 2.5-3 hours a week commitment has been totally worth it. I’ve asked a million questions and now know a lot more about what these services provide, as well as how and why of certain things. The only question I haven’t asked the cops yet is if they like police comedy movies like Hot Fuzz, Super Troopers or SuperBad. If your community puts on something like this, give it a try. Each one is a little different. My friends’ community didn’t allow getting tased, but did provide a ride-along with a cop to participants, which I think would have been great.