Citizen Police Officer (in Training) Jaracz reporting for duty!
Wait — what? Jill, the closest you’ve ever really gotten to policing is talking about cop cars. Are you really training to be some sort of authoritative police person taking down criminals and busting jaywalkers in Massachusetts?
Well, as nice as it sounds to crack down on pedestrian crime (which is a topic for another post because pedestrian right of way is taken to a whole new level of crazy here in Massachusetts), no.
No, for the next twelve weeks I’ll be attending Citizen Police Academy, a program in the ‘Ham (what the Boy and I call our town) that teaches citizens about all the different things the police do in our community. It’s a pretty extensive way to do some educational outreach, but I imagine it goes a long way toward building rapport between citizens and the police officers (and hey, I get to see my tax dollars at work).
There are about 30 of us in Class 27, and we range from high schoolers who are interested in becoming cops to college students majoring in criminal justice to groups of neighbors who decided to take it together. One guy’s a repeat customer–took it ten years ago and wanted to see how things have changed. I’m here because one of my neighbors went through it and said it was really interesting.
How interesting? Well, during our first class we visited the training gun range, the intake area, the cell blocks, and the main on-duty/monitoring room. I learned that cops have gun training twice a year, and they’ll train for extreme weather conditions. The ‘Ham uses bean bag rifles for deescalation purposes. An officer hasn’t fired his weapon at someone in the line of duty for many years.
I also learned that if you want to drive after drinking, it’s good to make sure that you have $40 on you and that you’re wearing (or carrying) socks. The $40 will get you out of the cell block, and the socks will protect your feet while you’re in the cell block. They take your shoes away when they put you in a cell, and the floor is pretty nasty.
Actually, the cells are pretty nasty, especially the women’s. They each contain a cot (no blanket) and a toilet. There’s a phone where they can make collect calls (good story–they’ve had detainees call the station while they’re sitting in the cell block and just say, “You assholes!”). The men’s cell block is made out of plexiglass-covered bars–because you can’t have the bars exposed, since someone might try to kill themselves–but the women’s cells are solid walls with a solid door that has a small window at the top. And they smell. I’d imagine it’s pretty easy to go nuts in there (ladies, no matter how cute the shoes are and how small your purse is, carry socks!)
However, the Commonwealth mandates that officers check on people in the cell blocks every 30 minutes. The ‘Ham checks on them every 15. Perhaps that alleviates some of the stress.
When we toured the men’s block, there were a couple of prisoners in there, detained for whatever reason (no bail, no bail yet, have to wait until court’s open, etc.), and you could tell they weren’t too thrilled to see a big group of law-abiding citizens parading through, trying to avoid eye contact.
The other very important thing I learned was that if you jaywalk, you could be fined. One dollar. Multiple offenders? Those next offenses will also set you back $1 per offense. The only reason the sergeant who told us this knew about it because he writes the grants for pedestrian safety in the ‘Ham and had to look it up. No officer in their right mind would be ticketing pedestrians. What a waste of time.
If my citizen policery came with any actual powers though, I’d be spending my patrol time writing those tickets. “Crosswalk’s five feet away, ma’am. Let this one dollar ticket be a stern reminder to use it next time!”
So my twelve weeks of fun begin. On the schedule are visits to the 9-11 center, defensive tactics, field sobriety/breathalyzers, violence prevention, elder affairs, S.W.A.T. and more. We also get to shoot Glocks and go on a ride along. It’s going to be an exciting fall, my friends!