CPA Learns About Dangerous Side of Law Enforcement
Over the past month, reporter Chase Cavanaugh has been embedded in Lexington’s Citizen Police Academy, a 12-week program that offers civilian classes on police training and tactics. In his third feature on the program, he discusses the class experience with tactics teams and officer ride-alongs.
Offered three times per year by the Lexington Division of Police, the CPA provides classes on a variety of police topics. Some lessons, such as analyzing body language take place in the classroom, while others, such as building searches, are bolstered by on-site activities and demonstration. Officer and CPA Coordinator Debbie Wagner says this combination helps build a strong class bond.
"We have class, then we have tours together, then we have dinners every night together, and then we also talk to each other, and then we talk to the officers, and when you do this week after week for 12 weeks, that layering effect, to me, is what makes the difference," she said.
For this lesson, the class went to the police firing range to meet the Emergency Response Unit, Fayette County’s equivalent of a SWAT team. Fully equipped, they staged several demonstrations, which, according to Lieutenant Murdock, are meant to display accurate law enforcement tactics.
"We try and dispel anything that may be imprinted from television shows and give them just some baseline knowledge on how we do things and why they do them," he said.
One demonstration was the apprehension of a dangerous suspect from a stopped vehicle. ERU operators assembled into a protective formation. The front row was equipped with 35-pound ballistic shields, while more heavily armed officers covered the middle and rear. They advanced slowly using the team truck as mobile cover.
Surrounding the car, they opened the doors, and promptly arrested the suspect.
Other demonstrations included how the team broke down a door, as well as simulated explosives.
The class was suitably impressed.
As it began to rain, the group moved under an awning for a combination CPA-police dinner. During the meal, I asked some classmembers about police ride-alongs, which several had taken outside of class. Reverend Jim Thurman had hoped scheduling his after the final four game would make things easy. However, he saw more than he expected.
“That was the same night when someone tried to run over a state policeman, run him down, so we had to cordon off certain areas, guy was doing 110 miles an hour along Tates Creek Road,” he said.
He also saw officers catch a shooter in a nearby backyard. Despite the recent media scrutiny of police violence, Thurman said Lexington’s cops are a very different operation.
"This is a very well educated department, it’s a very citizen concerned department, and even their techniques and apprehension of perpetrators and investigators, it’s all geared toward the motto of serve and protect," he said.
Officer Wagner also related the story of a woman who had poor experiences with the police in her previous residence, and decided to enroll in the CPA.
"She really had changed her whole attitude and how she really appreciated the police officers and didn’t realize how approachable that they were, and if it hadn’t been for the Citizen Police Academy, she would have never experienced the transparency that the officers really have," she said.
That experience will conclude at the end of May, with the 52nd class graduation.