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NL’s Wayson attends citizens’ police academy

Law enforcement up-close and personal
A participant in the county-wide Citizens’ Police Academy uses the MILO training simulator to learn how police officers train and practice for the use of firearms. It is one of many exercises citizens experience in the 11-week program that gives a glimps into the everyday world of law enforcement. (North Liberty Police Dept. photo)

By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– The 17th annual Citizens’ Police Academy concluded last Monday, April 7, with a graduation ceremony for nearly 30 Johnson County residents who wanted an up-close and personal look inside the world of law enforcement.
The 11-week program, which started in late January, is designed to encourage a better relationship between law enforcement agencies and they communities they serve. Officers from the North Liberty Police Department (NLPD), Johnson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO), University of Iowa Public Safety Department, Coralville Police Department and the Iowa City Police Department served as instructors.
Topics covered included the selection process for a police officer candidates, a tour of the Joint Emergency Communications Center (JECC), use of force, defensive tactics, crime scene investigation and evidence collection, traffic enforcement, Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) enforcement, a tour of the Johnson County Jail, the JCSO Reserve Program, Tasers, firearms (utilizing the MILO simulator, or Military Integrated Laser Operations), drug investigations, K-9s, probation and parole, violent incident survival training and the bomb squad.
The topics included presentations and opportunities for hands-on experience, said NLPD Investigator Mitch Seymour.
“There are many hands-on things we do. All attendees can participate as little or as much as they want in these. They include MILO and defensive tactics, and they see demonstrations from the bomb squad and SWAT and some of their equipment,” Seymour said. He explained the MILO system as, “kind of like a big video game, which has real guns that are attached to a computer and an air compressor. You stand in front of a large, life-size screen and are confronted with an endless number of scenarios in which you must act. If you happen to shoot someone, or use any of the other various items which you can use (like a Taser, pepper spray, a baton, etc.), it records where your bullets or strikes went and then you can discuss it with an instructor. It’s an invaluable tool for law enforcement.”
North Liberty City Councilman Brian Wayson participated in this year’s academy, and reported his experience during recent council meetings.
“I signed up for the program since I was interested in law enforcement. Also, as a city councilor, I felt it was important to know more about the police department since we have to make decisions regarding staffing and budgeting for that department,” Wayson said. He said police officers have a dangerous job and the city council needs to ensure the officers have, appropriate equipment, enough staff, and adequate facilities to do their job.
With a friend who is a deputy sheriff, and having taken some classes taught by officers, Wayson had a little insight going into the academy.
“Police work is not like what most people expect from watching (the TV show) ‘COPS.’ Unfortunately some people have negative stereotypes about law enforcement officers that are clearly incorrect, based on my experience,” Wayson said.
Many officers from several agencies volunteered their time to teach about their areas of expertise. This, Wayson said, “showed that they are really a bunch of good people trying their best to do a difficult job.”
Wayson said ultimately he wanted to get a better understanding of the role of the police department in the community. He found subjects such as illegal drugs and the relationship to gangs, accident investigations, self defense, use of force and the technology used by patrol officers, SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) and the bomb squad to be very effective.
Academy participants were able to do a ride-along with patrol officers, and Wayson took advantage of the opportunity, spending eight hours with the NLPD on a night shift. A series of routine business checks turned into a run up Highway 965 with lights and siren going as the officer responded to a potential assault.
Later he met with an officer involved in a meth lab incident that had occurred earlier in the day ,and rode with an officer tasked with traffic safety enforcement, a grant-funded enforcement program.
“He made several traffic stops and three tests for impaired drivers,” Wayson said. Though officers encountered some subjects they knew from previous encounters, people were generally very cooperative, Wayson noted.
The most important thing Wayson said he learned from the academy was a realization of and appreciation for the amount of continuing training and education the officers engage in.
“There is quite a bit of mandated training for everyone including frequent refresher courses as well as training to bring new skills into the department,” he said. “That clearly plays a role in scheduling and how many officers a department needs.”
Wayson said he would recommend the citizens’ academy to anybody interested.
“Our group included high school students interested in law enforcement as a career, to curious young adults such as myself, to senior citizens wanting to learn what law enforcement is really like.”
Seymour echoed Wayson’s remarks.
“Most people who attend say they learned a lot, and are happy they completed the program,” said Seymour. “I believe this program strengthens the relationship between law enforcement and the public as the people who attend get an eye opener in how dangerous police work is, and have an understanding of why we use certain techniques at certain times.”
To apply for the next citizens’ academy, visit the website northlibertyiowa.org/city-services/police-department/citizens-police-academy for announcement of the next session and an online application, or contact Officer Seymour at 319-626-5724. Applications can also be obtained at area police departments and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. There is a $25 fee. A background check is performed on applicants, and preference is given to those have not attended before.