SELMA, Texas – Selma Police Department’s Citizen Public Safety Academy is only in its second year, but it’s become so popular among community members, the class size has already almost doubled and participants have already asked for extra sessions.
KSAT 12’s Max Massey spoke to those in charge and even participated in one of the live action, fast paced "shoot, don’t shoot" drills. Here's what he learned...
In the age of technology and social media, police departments are doing their best to connect with the communities they risk their lives for to protect.
“We wanted more community involvement in the police department,” said Selma Police Chief David Padula.
For the Selma Police Department, that means giving those who are willing a crash course in what it takes to be police or EMS.
“It’s an inside look. It’s not TV. It’s not rumors. It’s not Facebook. This is an opportunity to show the community how to do our job and understand it a little bit better,” said Chief Padula.
The main point of the class is to show people what it means to be behind the badge, from the paperwork to the tough real life, dangerous situations.
“We want them to know what our job really is if want them to have that inside perspective and then I want them to go tell their neighbors,” said Chief Padula.
The class is a 12-week course that provides workshops in everything from arrest paperwork to responding to specific situations, and attendees appreciate the opportunity to learn.
“This is just an opportunity for me to give back to the community learn more about the department but also fire response, make community a better place and better place to live,” said Jeffrey M. Gideon, participant.
Shoot, don’t shoot:
One of the final course drills is the shoot, don’t shoot scenario.
Participants are told, “You guys are going into a domestic disturbance. That’s all you know. Neighbors heard fighting outside. (The) call was made and you’re going there.”
Participants are then handed a replica handgun.
“The very top of it is a salt pellet that is filled with a sort of dye, and it leaves a mark when it hits somebody and the casings are made so they will not fit in a regular caliber gun,” said Chief Padula.
The scenario was a replica of an actual officer involved shooting where two Selma officers were shot.
Massey and his mock police partner shot the assailant because they saw him pull a gun, but they said it wasn’t easy. Massey said adrenaline was pumping and tensions were high, despite knowing it was a drill, not actually life-or-death.
“You just don’t know what to expect, you don’t know if the person over here yelling help doesn’t have a weapon you don’t know if you’re the officer going into that room, everyone could be a threat to you, you just don’t know so you have to react extremely quick,” said David Acklen, who went through the drill with Massey.
This situation turned out shooting was the correct call, but it’s not always that easy a call.
“If he had a cell phone, would you have been able to tell it was a cell phone? No. If I saw something on his hand and he pointed it toward me, I wouldn’t have cared,” said Acklen.