Following a 10-week course put on by the Chula Vista Police Department, approximately 40 community members are leaving more informed on the ins and outs of police work.
The citizens police academy is a small sample of the real police academy that offers ordinary citizens the chance to learn about and participate in everything from patrol operations to defensive tactics, role-play scenarios and more.
Last week, Family Protection Unit Det. Elliott Shaffer walked participants through various scenarios based on actual past calls. During the scenarios, two classmates are chosen to act as police officers, while actual Chula Vista Police officers participate as offenders.
Shaffer has volunteered with the teen and adult academy for six years and says the purpose of the academy is to inform citizens of officers’ duties to better help them understand the job.
“Most people understand the shoot, don’t shoot, high-stress things that you see on television that make great TV shows,” Shaffer said. “But the idea behind the role-play scenarios is so they can see the everyday things we do and the decisions we have to make.”
Shaffer said not all decisions are black and white.
“This kind of opens the eyes to say, ‘OK now I understand why the officers were limited and what they could do,’” he said. “It’s much more effective when citizens get to do it hands-on and feel the frustrations that we do.”
The scenarios provided give citizens a sample of the most common calls for service and how they handle those situations.
“The majority of calls that we deal with are people wanting a problem solved that maybe isn’t criminal in nature but it’s something that’s affecting the way they live,” Shaffer said. “Party calls are very common … disturbing the peace.
We also have a high level of domestic violence calls.”
Shaffer said the academy classes also provide citizens the opportunity to see that officers are human too.
“We’re people just like everybody else and I think that gets forgotten sometimes,” he said.
Academy participant Zach Ambrose,19, is studying criminal justice at Grossmont College and applied for the academy to learn more about law enforcement.
Ambrose said he likes that the academy helps decrease the public stereotype that police officers are the bad guys.
“Anybody who wants to know anything about how the police department interacts with the community, I think the academy’s an excellence tool to reach out and help people and inform,” he said.
Joseph Marin, 46, is an executive protection agent who works in high threat security.
Marin said the academy is a great way to educate the community.
“I took every single class from an educational point of view,” he said. “The one that was most beneficial was the role playing and what the offices can and cannot do in certain situations.”
Marin was also impressed to find out that the officers volunteer their time to teach the classes.
“I really appreciate it,” he said. “They could be with their families and instead they’re over here educating us about their job. It could change someone from having a negative view of their local police agency.”
Recent participants will attend a graduation ceremony Nov. 28 at 6 p.m.