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Citizen's Police Academy Gives Inside Look at the Job of an Officer

October 31, 2013

More than a dozen Charlottesville residents are more police savvy after completing a ten-week training course. The Citizen's Police Academy wrapped up Thursday night with a final class focused on use of force and weapons.

The academy gives students a chance to put themselves in the shoes of police officers by being put to the test.

"It gets people in who know nothing about police work and shows them everything we do from beginning to end and every aspect of the police department," said Captain Gary Pleasants with the Charlottesville Police Department. "Why we do what we do, how we do these things and just gives an exposure they wouldn't have otherwise."

That includes the fast response and reaction law enforcement need when they are faced with using force.

"I'm certainly one of the people that [police] talk about in class who's always like, 'Well, how could you shoot somebody in the back?'" said Charlottesville resident Missy Wernstrom. "[The suspect] may have turned really quickly, you know? It just sort of brings home that it does seem like stuff might happen really pretty fast."

This year, Charlottesville police have dealt with two officer-involved shootings.

"No officer wants to be involved in one of those, so when they do occur we obviously take them as the most serious thing we can do [and] investigate them thoroughly," said Captain Pleasants.

Captain Pleasants says it is not possible to know exactly what goes through an officer's head when he or she is facing a potentially dangerous situation, but the classes and hands-on activities can give a sense of it.

On Thursday, course instructors guided students through the decision-making process officers use before they act.

Then, one by one, students tried their hand at training with simulated situations involving use of force and weapons. Scenarios ranged from busting a meth lab to routine traffic stops.

"It gives everyone who goes through this an understanding of why we are doing the things we do, what we are doing and the need for it," said Captain Pleasants. "They then can say to people, well I know why they did that. That looked right to me."

For more information about the Citizen's Police Academy, click HERE.

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