To Tase or not to Tase: That is the question
Editors note: Summit Daily News reporter Ashley Dickson will file her reflections on the Citizens Police Academy each week to provide insight into what Summit County law-enforcement officers face each day out on the streets.SUMMIT COUNTY The crackling sound of a Taser gun is hard to ignore as I took my seat in the front row for my second class at the Citizens Police Academy. Weve got an action-packed night for you folks, Sheriff John Minor announced. It will get your blood boiling. That is for sure.Im feeling more prepared for our second class, and I glance around the room to see we have a couple of new faces joining us tonight: members of the Summit County SWAT team. Decked out in hunter green like a G.I. Joe figurine, Sgt. Mark Heminghouse delivered a quick run-down on when and why the SWAT team gets called to respond to situations. The team is made up of police officers from all over the county, and members each carry an extra 35 pounds of specialized gear in their cars to be ready at a moments notice. In my line of work, I am required to carry a pen or pencil to be ready at a moments notice, so Im having a little bit of a hard time relating to the equipment-intense SWAT work. Next it was time for some hands-on learning, and our class was split into four groups to rotate through a set of simulations demonstrating when to use force on a suspect. Our first exercise involved dealing with a disturbed individual, and, one-by-one, each member of the group was equipped with a face mask and an airsoft gun for the simulation. Are you ready for this one? Dillon Police Chief Joe Wray asked me as I approach the back door to the Summit County Justice Center. There is a disturbed individual out there, and you need to make contact with him, Wray said, smiling at the fact that my eyes were wide with fear. Good luck.Without having any idea as to what I was doing, I crept around the corner to see a member of the SWAT team dressed in a long dark jacket, swaying back and forth and mumbling to himself.Yep, he looked disturbed to me. I inched closer to hear what he is saying and, before I knew it, he sprang at me with a knife pulled from his pocket. Startled to the point of nearly having a heart-attack, I stumbled backwards, frantically shooting my airsoft gun into his padded chest. Well, that is a good example of what not to do, Wray said. Usually you want to maintain more distance. You never know when someone might have a weapon.It was at that point I realized that I probably wouldnt make a good police officer, and I couldnt help but feel like I had failed as I relinquished my airsoft gun and trudged back inside. Thats the point, Minor said as I sat stewing over my poor performance. Now you realize that there are a lot of different things that go into being on patrol.Next it was off to learn more about Tasers, and I could barely hide my excitement when I was chosen to shoot 50,000 volts into a cardboard cutout on the other side of the room. Taser, Taser, Taser! I yelled out in warning before pulling the trigger. Like a bolt of lightning, two wires shot out of the gun and embedded themselves into the target, illuminating the dark room as the electricity pulsed through the wires into the cutout. Well, that was empowering. To round off the evening, members of the SWAT team taught us the proper way to clear a room of suspects in a potential standoff situation. In our case, this involved creeping around the justice center in search of Frisco Police Chief Tom Wickman, our potentially dangerous suspect at large.Feeling like one of Charlies Angels, I tightened my grip on my fake plastic gun and slowly moved into the room with my team of other classmates. Cover the left side, one of my teammates instructed in a low whisper. We found our suspect hiding behind a desk and placed him under arrest, just before the end of class. Mission accomplished. Our next class will cover investigations, and Ive been brushing up on old episodes of CSI to prepare myself for any tests that might get thrown my way.
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