A look back at TPD’s initial citizens academy

In a couple of weeks, a new group of citizens will start its journey through Tiffin Police Department’s citizens academy. I feel blessed to have been a part of the first academy class last year, to have learned a great deal about the department and to have made some tremendous friendships through the program. Below are blog entries I filed throughout my 10-week experience.

Under way: The Tiffin Police Department’s citizens academy is under way, and I am honored to be part of the first class of about a dozen students.

Last week marked the first meeting of the class, and it was an interesting one. We learned about the history of the city of Tiffin and the police department and also about the flood that devastated Tiffin 100 years ago. We also heard about how first responders react to situations. Tuesday was our second class, and it included a tour of the department and a presentation about investigations. I enjoyed learning about lie-detector tests and the way investigators conduct interviews and interrogations.

For next week’s class, we will be divided into four groups to learn about firearms, less lethal weapons, use of force, and patrol and communication. All four women in the academy are in the same group, and our first lesson will be firearms. I’m anxious to get in the firing range Tuesday. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the citizens academy so far. The lessons have been interesting and thought-provoking, and I am finding myself looking forward to each week’s class.

I appreciate the efforts of the department’s personnel to offer us this opportunity.

Week 3: Tuesday evening marked the third session in Tiffin Police Department’s citizens academy. For this class, we were divided into three groups, with all four of us women in the same group. Our group’s lesson was about firearms. We had classroom instruction and were given a sheet of paper containing the top firearm safety rules: Treat every firearm as if it is loaded; never point the muzzle at anything you don’t want to shoot; keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot; and know your target and what is beyond it. After classroom instruction, we went into the range, where we could shoot three firearms, a .40-cal. Glock, a 9mm and an Mp5 fully automatic. I had had experience with shooting handguns, but shooting the fully automatic was new to me. I appreciate the chance to get experience with handling and shooting firearms. I find it empowering and am thankful that I have had good instructors along the way. The class is having a friendly competition to see whether the men or the women are a better shot. I was proud of how we shot and am ready to see if the men can do better!

Week 4: It’s hard to believe we have completed our fourth week of Tiffin Police Department’s citizens academy. It is moving quickly and has been an enjoyable experience. During Tuesday’s session, my group split into two teams. Two of us observed operations in the dispatch center, and the other two took a ride in patrol cars. Then, we switched. I’d like to thank Sgt. LaVerne Keefe for allowing me to ride with him and also for explaining radar guns and ticketing. The only excitement we had during our time in the car was a parking ticket. I was amazed that he even saw the violation. Once he pointed out the car parked too far from the curb, it was an obvious to me that it was a violation. I never would have noticed it on my own. He definitely was watching our surroundings as we went around town. At the end of the class, Brandon Amory voluntarily took a shot from a Tazer, and those of us in the class got to watch. (Be sure to check out the video on The A-T’s Facebook page.) While I believe in living without fear, I have no plans to take a hit voluntarily any time soon! Thank you, Brandon, for being the brave volunteer.

Week 5: It is hard to believe our class has completed our fifth week of Tiffin Police Department’s citizens academy. Tuesday’s class marked the final rotation, and my group learned about less lethal weapons and the use of force continuum. The talk focused on topics such as trigger operation, types of Tasers, batteries and the ability of Tasers to record information. I truly enjoyed learning about Tasers and appreciate their helpfulness in law enforcement. Our group also got to experience being handcuffed. Next up is a talk about drug identification.

Week 6: Tuesday night’s citizens academy class was an eye-opener, I’d say.

Detective Charles Boyer, who leads the area Metrich unit, explained the role of the unit in Seneca County and the region. He told us the unit had its first heroin overdose in September 2008 and it started spreading out of control. The unit now is battling pills and heroin.

Boyer said a person cannot quit heroin cold turkey. The user needs medical assistance to quit.

The biggest lesson I took from from Tuesday’s class: Drug abuse and addiction can happen to any family. It truly does not discriminate.

Thank you to Boyer and others in the community who are dedicating their lives to stopping this monster.

Week 7: Whodunnit?

Tonight’s citizens academy class through Tiffin Police Department featured a mock crime scene.

Upon arriving at the scene, we found bullet casings, blood, alcohol bottles, a coat, a boot print and a deceased victim (a dummy). We surveyed the scene, took photographs, marked evidence and dusted for fingerprints.

It was interesting to use black dusting powder to make fingerprints evident; I successfully dusted a hand print on a paint bucket we found at the scene.

I found myself trying to solve the mystery of exactly what had occurred, and it was interesting to hear of various scenarios that could have happened. It was eye-opening to hear of one particular scenario that I never would have imagined.

Tonight, I learned not to make assumptions and to remain open-minded about situations. Sometimes, situations are not what they seem.

Week 8: Tonight’s class focused on impaired driving, and Officer Jake DeMonte, the department’s canine handler, was our instructor.

We learned about three types of standardized field sobriety tests used to detect impaired driving.

One is a horizontal gaze nystagmus, which involves making the suspected drunk driver follow a pen’s movement with his or her eyes. Another is a walk and turn test, where the driver is asked to walk heel-to-toe down a line. Third is the one leg stand. The driver attempts to stand on one foot and not lose his or her balance.

After the interesting lesson, we got to witness law enforcement officers administer the tests to two men.

What impressed me was DeMonte’s ability to nearly perfectly predict the blood alcohol content during the exercise.

I am appreciative of those officers who make it a priority to catch impaired drivers. It’s impossible to know how many lives they have saved by arresting impaired drivers; their efforts should be commended.

Week 9: Where did the time go? Tuesday marked our last class before next week’s graduation ceremony, and it was a full program.

We heard from Richard Palau, city administrator, about proving a case; Judge Mark Repp, about the legal process; Lt. Mark Marquis, about the department’s special response team; and Officer Jake DeMonte, about the department’s canine officer, Andy.

Among the highlights of the evening were seeing K9 Andy and getting to witness Marquis fire a Superstock 37mm and deploy a flashbang in the department’s firing range. Getting to witness SRT tools in action is not something most get to see; and if they do, it probably is not a positive situation. Also, Andy was a lively addition to our class.

I’ve felt a connection with Andy since meeting him for the first time after he was introduced to city council when he arrived in Tiffin. He hopped onto my lap, and I fell in love with his spunk, perkiness and enthusiasm. I view him as more than a dog; he, to me, is superhuman. He provides a valuable tool to help the police department keep our community safe.

Week 10: Just like that, our class ends. I am not quite sure where the 10 weeks went, but our Tiffin Police Department citizens academy is complete.

Throughout the 10-week program, we learned about firearm safety, crime scene investigation, the department’s canine program and much more. I truly enjoyed every class and looked forward to every week’s new adventure. I was sad to see it end. I knew it would be a tremendous experience, but it was more than I ever could have imagined.

But, our class is not quite done. The formal instruction is over, but our class had such a great experience, we have decided to keep meeting. I hate saying good-bye, so I could not be more thrilled that our class will be keeping in touch.

I would like to express my deepest appreciation to everyone at the police department who made this happen: Chief Fred Stevens for having the idea, Sgt. Jared Watson for organizing the class, Officer Becca Timm for helping behind the scenes and all other officials who taught us throughout the program. Also, thank you to my classmates for a phenomenal experience. I can truly say I’ve gained a dozen new friends from participating in it.

For anyone who is thinking about participating, the department probably will offer its second class a year from now. I highly recommend applying if you are able.