After attending the Chapel Hill Citizen’s Police Academy, a three-day event (two week-night sessions and one weekend day) to give Chapel Hillians an opportunity to learn more about our police department, I definitely have a much better appreciation of what our police officers do on a daily basis.
After meeting many of Chapel Hill’s finest, the Academy began with two computer simulations. I have to confess that I was a tad apprehensive about raising my hand to volunteer, but that wasn’t a problem for 16 year-old Ryan Winstead, a student at East Chapel Hill High School. Ryan bravely put herself in the middle of a domestic dispute. In this simulated dispute, Ryan was threatened abruptly by an intoxicated, knife-wielding woman, having to decide quickly whether or not to use force. In the second scenario, a troubled man pulled a gun from a couch and committed suicide. The CHPD uses simulations like these to train its officers when force should – and should not – be used. As witnessed, decisions need to be made in a split second, often determining life and death. We also learned about the most prevalent crime statistics in Chapel Hill.
During the 3-day sessions, I was able to learn more about:
- Arrest procedures
- Chapel Hill’s crime statistics
- Internal affairs
- Equipment demonstrations
- When force should be used
- Mental health issues
- K-9 and SERT team demonstrations
The highlights of the weekend were the K-9 and SERT demonstrations. The Police department has three dogs (MJ, Jax and Kernie) trained to sniff out drugs and to follow the scent of a suspect for whom they are looking. Believe me when I say that you don’t want these dogs on your trail. After finding a simulated “suspect” in the woods, one of the search dogs easily incapacitated him.
The Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), made up of 10 police officers are trained to intervene in situations that would be risky for other officers or civilians. In a simulation utilizing their armored personnel carrier, they were able to neutralize the threat with a disorienting sound-blast, moving officers into position with speed and precision.
I can’t overstate how thoroughly impressed I was with Chapel Hill’s Finest. Their professionalism and high level of training make them such a tremendous asset to the town. It’s comforting to know these fine men and women are looking after our communities.