Citizens Academy provides police perspectiveFeb 07, 2019 03:04PM ● By Travis Barton
Lt. Jeff Conger speaks at the Citizens Academy graduation last year. Conger was the coordinator of the 10-week academy giving residents a chance to get a real working knowledge of the police department through classroom discussions and hands-on training scenarios. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
It was last fall and a man was beating on a vending machine when Nicole MacPherson and her partner arrived. Wearing the full police belt, she turned the corner and he immediately came at her with a knife.
“I managed to draw my weapon and couldn't bring myself to fire,” she said. “So my partner and I both died.”
MacPherson was describing a training scenario during last fall’s Citizens Academy, the second such program put on by the West Valley City Police Department. A third will begin sometime this spring.
The academy is a 10-week program giving residents a chance to get a real working knowledge of the police department through classroom discussions and hands-on training scenarios.
Lt. Jeff Conger coordinated the academy, providing instruction on investigations, policies, and how they handle officer involved critical incidents.
“(In 10 weeks) we covered the most important aspects that we wanted to share with the community to help them understand what we’re doing,” he said.
Conger brought in other experts to work with residents, such as forensics and the fire department.
Conger said the academy — Conger’s first, the department held its first academy in spring/summer 2018 — exceeded his expectations due to the help from other departments.
Participants got in-person demonstrations and experience. That included emergency vehicle operations demonstrating how officers train to drive safely in emergency situations. They also had a day at the shooting range as well as demonstrations from the SWAT team and K9 unit.
“Some residents actually got to wear a bite sleeve and take a bite from a dog which is pretty cool,” Conger said.
They also had specific scenarios, such as MacPherson’s experience at the vending machine.
Another scenario, she said, was a man at 7-11 yelling at someone. When they walk in, the man turns and pulls a phone at them to show a situation where police aren’t sure what they’re holding.
“It felt very real,” MacPherson said of the scenario training. “You kind of understand better what (police are) thinking and what they go through.”
MacPherson’s husband completed the first academy last spring and she applied for the academy after his recommendation.
“I love our police department. I just have a great amount of respect for them and I wanted to come be more involved and show them my support,” she said.
Conger received plenty of positive feedback from participants at the graduation ceremony. Conger said no matter what they might see in the news or through their own experience, he hoped participants would have a different perspective.
“I think they'll be able to look at things that come out in the media and they won't just get a one-sided thought on it,” he said. “That they'll look at more of a bigger picture and make their own decision that can understand why that happened the way it did.”
Residents ranged from senior citizens to a West Valley City code enforcement officer. To apply for the next academy, watch WVCPD social media for announcement dates.
MacPherson would forward the recommendation to other residents.
“It was one of the best experiences I've had,” she said. “I learned a lot, had a ton of fun and I think everybody should go.”