Maureen Johnson concludes her journal from the Blue Springs Police Department Citizens Academy.
Saturday Oct. 25, 2008 – Today has probably been the most anticipated class for me personally. Sgt. Kintz, Detective Troy Pharr, Sgt. Bob Harman & Officer Jeff Sargent took us out to the Sugar Creek Firing Range for a full day of Firearms Training. We met at the Police Station at 8:00 a.m. to get everything loaded and then made our way to the range. Obviously, there was an hour or so of training to go over firearm safety and range rules. We reviewed the guns & rifles we would be using which included 9MM semi-automatic Smith & Wesson pistols and Remington 870 12 gauge shot guns.
After the safety class, we made our way out to the range and geared up in bullet-proof vests and service belt holsters which is only a fraction of the equipment our officers suit up in for every shift. It was a bit awkward & uncomfortable but gave us a true sense of what our officers are required to wear. We lined up in 2 sets of 8 to practice shooting from various distances in a very methodical manner. While I suspected most of the gentlemen in our class, who have shot weapons before, would be very accurate, I was most surprised with a few of the women who never shot before, especially Jeanie Lauer, District 1 Council Member, who we have lovingly nicknamed “Dead Eye” because of her precise shooting - Annie Oakley herself, would have been impressed. We continued shooting throughout the morning and actually performed the Firearms Qualification for officers however we weren’t held to the timeframes they are during their qualification - It was an absolute blast:
We took a break for lunch which consisted of hamburgers & hotdogs fresh off the grill prepared by “Chef” Kintz and then returned to the range to learn how to shoot shotguns. Needless to say, I was a little intimidated and nervous to shoot this weapon; it was heavy, long & felt awkward however, with the individual help of Sgt. Harman I shot 10 rounds which was plenty for me. I took a break to watch the others continue to shoot for another _ hour or so. Next up were the Smith & Wesson Model 15 223 assault rifles…There were 2 available to us and these were personal weapons purchased by Detective Pharr & Sgt. Kintz as the city does not provide these rifles or the ammunition to our officers. This weapon was so neat, it was light & surprisingly easy to handle. We each took turns shooting both weapons but we didn’t want to shoot too many rounds since we were using their personal ammunition stock. My husband hinted his birthday was in a week and that he would like to have one for himself - We will have to wait & see as I have a different idea for his gift since these rifles run close to $2K:
Lastly, Officer Jeff Sargent put on quite a show with his machine gun skills. There were strict orders from Chief McCoy that we were not to shoot this weapon which was fine by me as you need extreme skill to do what Jeff demonstrated for us. Today was so much fun and I know all of us in the class thoroughly enjoyed this outdoor session. We really appreciate these officers who sacrificed their entire day to provide this class for us.
Wednesday Oct. 29, 2008 – Tonight’s class was off-site at the Western Missouri Regional Police Academy which covered both classroom training & the Firearms Training Simulator (FATS). We separated into 2 groups - Sgt. Kintz & Detective Pharr provided the FATS training while Lt. Decker provided the classroom session.
Lucky for me, our group was first to do the FATS which consisted of a narrow cement room with faux brick walls and a high tech program where we had real situations we had to react, or not, by shooting the “bad guys”. The guns were actual weight however, not loaded with bullets as they were laser so you get an accurate count of where you shot and whether you hit or missed the target. We were instructed to give verbal commands to the potential suspects and use any cover necessary - It was very cool. They had another machine which is used for the officers when training, that shoots out rubber pellets portraying the suspects gun fire however, they didn’t use this for us rookies, thankfully: We had close to an hour & _ for the FATS machine so needless to say, all of us got to take several turns. I really liked the situations when we did not have shot because that took me off-guard however, made it more realistic. I would love to do this session again, I think I could do better giving the verbal commands next time.
After the high-intensity FATS training we moved to the classroom with Lt. Decker which was a nice wind-down. Lt. Decker prepared a film for us to see which covered very disturbing images from several school shootings including Columbine, VA Tech and the Amish school just to name a few. I think what was even more disturbing is that 55% of all school shootings happen in communities with a population below 50K - It is a scary reality.
Saturday Nov. 1, 2008 – Tonight was highly anticipated for weeks…Jeff & I were both scheduled to do our ride-along. We wanted to do a full shift with the officers however our schedules didn’t allow for that so we rode with our finest from 6:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.
I was teamed up with Officer Paula Pickett who has been on the BSPD since October 2001. Paula started dispatch volunteer work back in 1984 while in High School, then became a reserve dispatcher, served in the Army for 5 years and then served on the Greenwood PD for a short while before joining our police force. Paula explained police work in a way I never heard, but after quick thought, it made a lot of sense. She said police work is a little bit of everything and they have to act as marriage counselors, physiatrists, public relations & first aid just to name a few of the “hats” they must wear. They are also the first to respond & the last line of defense. I learned all officers need to take a 40 hour First Responder class while in the academy which is great. The night was fairly low key with a handful of calls however, still exciting. I had a sense of pride riding with Paula and feel a lot safer knowing she, along with all of our other officers, are patrolling & keeping our streets safe.
Wednesday Nov. 5, 2008 – I was excited yet sad knowing tonight was the last class. Sgt. Kintz spent the first few hours covering crime prevention and he provided sensible & economical tips for protecting your home. I am going to share all of the information he provided to our Neighborhood Watch group because there are simple ways to make your home less inviting to criminals. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity and we are now in what the PD refers to as “Silly Season”. This refers to the upcoming holidays and with the state of the economy, we will see an undeniable increase in crime. I think one of the most important lessons tonight was to get to know your neighbors and the normal surroundings of your neighborhood. If you see something suspicious, call the police - They are here to help and work with us but they can’t do it on their own.
We moved to the Multi-purpose room over at the Police station for our graduation. I was pleasantly surprised with what the PD had planned. The graduation opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and then a beautifully sung National Anthem by Macie Taylor. Chief McCoy addressed us and spoke with words of gratitude for being the 1st class. He then opened the floor to the class and invited us to speak individually about our experience during this process. Everyone had extremely positive comments and the experience was amazing. We received a Certificate of Completion, class photo and a CD of all the pictures that were taken during the academy which was a real nice surprise. We are all grateful to the PD for allowing this program to take place within our community and I will encourage everyone I speak with to get on the list for future classes because it was so well planned and more informative than you could ever imagine.
I am leaving this academy with a true sense of what our PD does for our community and how truly dedicated they all are. I am also leaving with a mission to spread the word of apparent needs of our PD. This was completely unsolicited however their needs are so apparent. I am ashamed as a citizen to see offices without ceilings, cramped quarters and a radio dispatch system that is probably 20 years old which, if you can believe it, has dead spots within our city limits where officers lose communication with dispatch. Some officers even use their personal GPS systems while on duty. We live in a great community and the City of Blue Springs offers so much to each and every one of us & I have to say I was deeply embarrassed and sad to witness their basic needs. Our community continues to thrive and grow yet we don’t have the police staff to serve this ever-growing city. We have 9 detectives who carry a case load of 90-100 cases at a time! They aren’t asking for Mobile Data Terminals (MDT), even though it would be nice if they could run everything from their cars and not tie up the lines with dispatch to run a plate or a license, they just need a dispatch system that keeps them safe which in turns keeps us safe. Everyone was willing to support the CJC Fire Department earlier this year and it is my personal mission to see that our PD gets that same support.