Learn what it takes to protect and serve
First, I allowed two of my partners to be stabbed in the back. Moments later, I accidentally shot one of them right in the head. It was NOT a good night for me.
Fortunately, it turned out just fine for them. We were just three of the 22 "students" taking part in the 2019 Westlake Community Police Academy.
I’ll come back to the building search exercise in a moment, as it was merely one of over two dozen topics and activities we dove into during our weekly 3-hour sessions.
Over the course of 12 weeks, various experts in various areas of police work instructed us. Each week offered a deeper peek into the vast abilities of our formidable Westlake law enforcement: narcotics investigation, hostage negotiation, crime scene processing, patrol techniques, radar operation, crowd control, human trafficking investigation, jail operations, detective procedures, court systems, and more.
Did you know our Westlake Police Department is a leader in digital forensics? Even the federal government turns to us for help overcoming security blocks in devices to gain valuable evidence.
Thankfully, the bomb squad isn’t called into action much – but with a full complement of robots, blast suits and mobile X-ray machines, they are more than ready.
As well as carefully photographing and assessing the newly deceased, our medical examiner is usually the one tenderly informing family about their loved one's death. His typical tally: about one a day … one a day.
Another big lesson: the drug problem is real. And it’s here. And it’s being dealt with the best it possibly can be. When we weren’t passing around evidence bags full of heroin, LSD, and big chunky rocks of crack, we were passing around batons, handcuffs, radar guns, stun guns, gun guns, and other items part of a normal day for a Westlake cop.
Hitting the firing range was sure an experience! But its possible taking aim with a radar gun was even more entertaining (as every car bearing down on us suddenly found their brakes).
And we all had the chance to drive around a marked course behind the wheel of a police cruiser. Naturally, each of us wanted the lights flashing as we did so.
For all their firepower and experience using it, most of our cops have never taken a shot. Amazing, given the constant stressful situations they face. It’s a result of great training and a cool, level-headed approach to daily encounters. As Capt. Jerry Vogel empathetically stated, “We never forget we’re seeing people on their worst days.”
As you hear their many exciting experiences, it’s hard not to put yourself in their place and wonder how you’d react. In fact, they made it real easy.
Which brings me back to the building search exercise: We were divided into teams of three, given rubber guns and working flashlights, told the situation (“It’s 3am, an alarm went off, that’s all you know”), then walked into the unknown.
We had no idea what to expect. We made a lot of mistakes. A lot of mistakes. Any one of which would have cost us dearly if this had been real life.
This always-present potential of the "unexpected" happening is a reality our cops have to deal with every time they so much as make a traffic stop. Every. Time.
Just imagine that kind of uncertainty in your own life: If you couldn’t be sure the office copier wouldn’t explode when you hit print. Or the coffee machine wouldn’t take a shot at you.
So next time you’re a little heavy-footed on the gas pedal and get pulled over, do the officer a favor. Keep both hands on the steering wheel. Inform the officer if you need to reach into the glove box for your registration … and wait until the officer gives you the okay. Not simply to be polite. But to reduce any concerning motions that can create undue stress.
Remember, you don’t have to constantly worry about every one of your customers suddenly pulling a knife or gun on you. They do.
To learn more about the Westlake Community Police Academy, visit www.cityofwestlake.org/203/Police.
Randy DeMuesy has been an advertising copywriter for over three decades. For 23 of those years, he has also been a resident of Westlake.