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Class Learns Police Work Firsthand

Reporter Chase Cavanaugh has been embedded in Lexington's Citizen Police Academy.  In his second feature on the program, he discusses the transition from classroom instruction to hands on experience.

The Citizen Police Academy is a program offered thee times per year by the Lexington Division of Police.  Over a series of 12 weeks, it provides instruction on specific police skills, such as analyzing body language for signs of lying and how to respond to resistance by suspects.  Participant Rob Bolson said with active officers giving the lessons, there was ample opportunity to dispel common myths about law enforcement. 

“You really get to see firsthand how things work.  There’s a lot of misconceptions with television and movies and so forth so to be able to see it firsthand and to hear it directly from the officers that are out on the frontlines every day, it’s very interesting,” he said.

Most of the early lessons took place in the classroom, but on April 15th, the class got the chance for some more hands on instruction.  They traveled to the Roll Call Facility on Old Frankfort Pike to carry out a building search.  Officer Karsner explains.

“Essentially what we do is set up mock scenarios that each of the participants in the Citizens Police Academy can go through to kind of get a taste of what it’s like being a police officer and searching a building at night not knowing what the environment is or if there’s anybody inside,” he said.

The class was split up into teams of five, given bulletproof vests and plastic props shaped like handguns.  Their goal, investigate reports of an alarm going off in a nearby unoccupied building.  After suiting up, the team moved into position around the entrance.  Advancing slowly they checked every door, calling out for intruders. 

However, something took them by surprise. 

After being  gunned down by a man hiding in a corner, they gathered for a quick debriefing.  One member, Yana Verenich, was still hopped up on adrenaline, but admitted it was a fulfilling experience.   

“I’ve never done this in real life but I think it was probably pretty realistic in the fact that you had to search everything and you had to be pretty in tune with their team.” she said.

Her teammate, Kyle Geohegan, agreed, and suggested some ways to improve.   

“Can’t really miss anything, you have to rely on your cover officers in the scenarios.  Also in my case, I feel like I moved too slowly through the doorways and the hallways and he was able to shoot us ultimately,” he said.

In addition to the building search, the class also got the chance to meet officers from  the Division’s K9 Unit.  They introduced several of the police dogs, trained to sniff out people, bombs, and narcotics. Trainer Henry Hicks says the canines are quite versatile. 

“Most people are really impressed as far as the amount of training and stuff that we give these dogs and the way they perform.  It’s pretty impressive to watch the things we ask the dogs to do and that they’re actually able to do after a certain amount of training,” he said.  

Hicks demonstrated this with several drills, one involving a dog flushing out a trainer hidden in one of several large boxes.  Each box has a small hole in the bottom to allow a scent out, and help simulate a room search test used by many police dog trainers.   Other exercises included a run through an obstacle course, and naturally, a game of fetch. 

Overall, the class was quite satisfied with the day’s experiences, part of many they share together at CPA.    More information on the Citizen Police Academy, including a yearly schedule, can be found online.

Chase Cavanaugh first got on the air as a volunteer reader for Central Kentucky Radio Eye, a local news service for the visually impaired. He began reporting for WUKY in February 2012, after receiving his Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.