Sunday, February 7, 2016

Carroll Co. Md. Times: “Training Day Citizens Police Academy,” By Jamie Kelly, Nov. 17, 2002

Residents get hands-on experience at Westminster Citizen Police Academy

Lori Graham didn't go to jail after she beat a police officer with a baton.
Instead, she graduated with flying colors. Graham was part of the first class to go through the Westminster City Police Department's Citizen Police Academy. She and five others spent nine weeks learning what police officers do. From the first class on Oct. 1, she learned things she never knew about the police department.

But there's no contest for her favorite part of the class. She liked the trip to the shooting range the best, she said. The class had a chance to visit the police training facility in Sykesville and fired a police service pistol.

For many in the class, it was the first chance to fire a pistol. Graham had shot a pistol before, but that was a revolver, not a semi-automatic pistol like police carry. The firing range also had a computer training program called Range 2000. Class members carried a pistol that fired a laser beam. A computer projected different training scenarios on a large screen, similar to a video game, and an officer in the back of the room controlled how those scenarios turned out.


Update – editor’s note: February 7, 2016 - Someone asked me about the Westminster Citizen Police Academy that we had in Westminster when I was in the mayor’s office. It was a great program. I guess ran it course. I do not know why it was discontinued and I am not aware of when it discontinued. If I recall, we started it shortly after I got into office in May 2001 and if I remember correctly, it stopped shortly after I lost my election in May 2005.

There were some great folks involved. Folks like Randy Barnes, Lori Graham, Tony Ott, Pat Bassler, Jim Pullen, Tom Kowalczyk, Wayne Mann, Mike Bible, and the like. Jamie Kelly wrote one of several great articles and Ken Koons took one of my favorite pictures taken when I was in office.

As for the cops, courts, and crime beat, the Carroll County Times continues its great coverage. Today’s stories are written, in part by Heather Mongilio

I always said that if you can avoid getting totally creeped-out, cops, courts, and crime was a great beat for writing stories. I loved it years ago when it was my assignment. Go here for more stores:

Cops, courts, and crime was especially a good beat for those of us who grew-up reading detective stories or “In Cold Blood,” by Truman Capote, or “To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee… and southern gothic literature.

Other examples of authors of the southern gothic genre of writing include William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, and Harper Lee. Tennessee Williams is said to have described the genre as stories that reflect “an intuition of an underlying dreadfulness in modern experience.”

I found this article on my website, but sadly, the link to continue reading the rest of the article by Jamie Kelly no longer works. So I restored the rest of the article here. If I have erred, and someone knows of a link for the rest of the story, simply be in touch and I will take care of it.


Students had to make spilt-second decisions about whether to shoot. Usually, they were right, but some decisions were tougher than others.

One scenario involved a domestic dispute where the husband refused to put his baby down.

He pulled out a gun, and the students had to decide whether to shoot him.

Graham called the scenarios a revelation. She didn't realize how quickly an officer's job could go from routine to dangerous. Nor did she realize how adrenaline would affect reaction times or shot accuracy.

It also made her senses feel sharper, but she thinks she was quicker to make a decision than she normally would be. When she felt like her life was in danger, even in a simulation, she wanted to protect herself. And, she said, she may have overreacted sometimes, especially by shooting too much.

During the simulations all of the students shot what seemed like a lot of rounds, but Capt. Randy Barnes said they weren't that much higher than average.

He said the average shoot-out involving police only lasts a few seconds, but five to seven rounds are fired.

Most of the shots fired - a lot in some cases - happened within hundredths of a second of each other. But, she said, she could hear each and every one distinctly.

Graham was invited to apply to the Citizen Police Academy, partially because she was active with the Lower Pennsylvania Avenue Committee. The committee was formed to help stop crime and drug traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue.

As executive secretary of Dutterer's Flower Shop and the daughter of the owner - the shop has been in her family since 1919 - she grew up on the avenue, and now she lives there.

She got to see that up close when, as a part of the program, she spent a Saturday evening riding and walking with a Westminster police officer.

The night she spent with the officer was McDaniel College's Homecoming. She had a chance to see officers break up a few scuffles and look for public drunkenness and underage drinking while riding with Cpl. Thomas Kowalczyk.

"He would explain the 10-codes to me - the codes officers use to convey information, 10-4 for example - so I knew what was happening," she said.

On the way back to the station, he spotted a car that looked suspicious. The car was alone in a parking lot at nearly 2 a.m.

He found two juveniles who had snuck out of their houses.

Graham said she was fascinated by the differences between real-life policing and television cop shows, where every case takes exactly one hour. Really, she said, officers jump from call to call and each call can be different.

"One second, you have to be the nice, kind police officer talking to people on the street, and the next you have to be the tough law enforcement guy dealing with people who shouldn't be on the street," she said.

That's where training comes in. Officers are taught the ladder of force. It starts with verbal commands - officers call it verbal judo - and progresses to physical force, pepper spray, use of the baton and finally deadly force.

Students in the Citizen Police Academy had the chance to experience several different rungs on the ladder of force.

In one class, Barnes dressed in a red, padded suit and mimicked attacking the cadets. They used a padded baton to fend him off.

His head, neck, spine, and chest were off-limits for the baton because hitting those areas could cause lethal damage.

But students did hit those areas, usually accidentally.

Barnes said that was an example of how skilled police have to be with the baton. He also said police have to know when the fight is over.

"It's like going from 10 mph to 100 mph in a second," Barnes said, "but then having to slow down from 100 mph to 10 mph just as quickly."

Graham said that during the entire fight with Barnes, which lasted a little longer than a minute, she had no idea what was happening, other than that he was attacking her and she was defending herself.

"If that had been a real attack, I don't think I could have described him to police," she said. "All I could focus on were his hands."

And she was sore the next day from all the hits she gave and received.

But the entire class wasn't about hitting police officers and shooting their guns.

Much of the time was spent in the classroom, but the training was hands-on.

Students learned how to conduct field sobriety tests. Officer Jim Pullen showed the class how to judge if someone is intoxicated through the tests officers use all the time.

Graham said she had no concept of what went into a DUI stop.

"All I knew is what I'd read in the paper - that someone was charged," she said. One night students got to see real drunkards and try out the field sobriety tests.

Off-duty Westminster police officers drank beer and Pullen drove them to the new District Courthouse to take field sobriety tests.

The tests measure balance and motor skills, and officers use the results in court.

A drunken person will react in very specific ways, as Pullen told the class, and the students saw for themselves.

The tests fascinated Graham because she said she was naive about how the body would react to alcohol and what someone who was drinking could and couldn't control.

And she was interested by something else people can't control - fingerprints.

Lt. Wayne Mann of the Criminal Investigation Division taught students how to dust for fingerprints at a crime scene. Then the students fingerprinted each other.

Graham said the process was much easier than she'd imagined, but it was occurring in a classroom, so that helped.

That same evening, Detective Laurin Askew spoke to the class about drugs.

He showed the students pipes, syringes, and bags people use to take and package illegal drugs. All the items he showed the class had been seized in various raids in Westminster. He also showed them samples of different types of drugs.

The sheer amount of drugs seized amazed Graham.

She recognized some of the packaging, though.

She said she used to find the tiny, resealable bags used to package crack cocaine in the alley by her shop. That's been happening less and less, though, she said.

She credits the increased patrols on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Sgt. Mike Bible, community education officer for Westminster police, was so pleased with the way the class came together, he decided to offer the academy again.

He said six people who didn't know each other started to function as a team, and that was part of the intent.

"It was kind of like the real police academy," he said.

And if nothing else, it made Graham more aware of her surroundings.

Not long ago, she was out on her porch, talking to neighbors. She saw a car she didn't recognize drive past twice.

Before, she said, she probably wouldn't have even noticed it.

But since the academy, she has become more observant. She looked inside the car as it drove by and made a mental note of its license plate.

She thinks her new found powers of observation will be helpful to her neighborhood and to the police.

"I won't call the police and say, 'There's a guy walking down the street and he looks strange.'"

But no matter how hands-on classroom training is, it's no substitute for on-the-job training.

Chief Roger Joneckis told the class about a commercial he saw years ago where, after a civilian had spent time riding along with police, the officers turn to the man and say, "Now it's your turn."

And on Nov. 16, it was their turn.

For their last class, students went through real training scenarios.

They handled a domestic dispute, possible drug activity on a playground and a traffic stop.

Beyond their training, Bible only offered one piece of advice.

"Expect the unexpected," he told them.

©Carroll County Online 2002 
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