Isn’t that a fun headline without any added context? That’s too tempting to pass up.
So, two years ago in 2018, I joined the Union Township Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy in Clermont County, Ohio. If you’re not familiar, a lot of police departments offer these Citizens Police Academies for citizens to spend a couple of months learning about the police department. Classes range from listening to lectures about traffic reconstruction, drunk driving, and homicides to shooting a gun at the target range, and driving a police vehicle around an obstacle course. There was even a demonstration with the police K-9, which I enjoyed.
The stated idea is to give individuals an inside look at how the police department operates. A lot of people call it an “eye-opening experience.”
I did the Citizens Police Academy for two reasons. Primarily, I was seeking to do it as a journalist for my newspaper, but that turned out to be a bust. The department was a bit, uh, gun-shy about me talking about what was talked about in class. Which, doesn’t make much sense, because nothing said was confidential nor should it be. Aside from what I’m sharing with you today, I didn’t end up using anything else. Additionally, because the classes met on Tuesday, the same day as our newspaper production day, I ended up missing too many classes and had to drop out before officially completing the course.
I did get to shoot the gun and ride the police vehicle, so there’s that. The police vehicle obstacle course was like a more advanced driving test with the cones, where you had to drive as fast as you could in and around the cones, and then more difficult, do it in reverse. It was fun.
The second reason I did the academy was for my own personal intrigue. If you’ve followed this blog since 2013, you know I’m highly interested and passionate about the police. I’ve done a number of ride alongs with police, and have interviewed sheriffs and police officers at length. I’ve written about policing in general for quite a long time.
Just like with the police ride alongs, I figured sitting in on the Citizens Police Academy could indeed be an “eye-opening experience.” It really wasn’t, and I think that speaks more to my knowledge on policing being a bit more advanced than the average citizen. I don’t say that with arrogance, but it’s simply the case that the average citizen doesn’t know much about what the police do, and what policing looks like.
And at a more granular level, the experience confirmed my priors, admittedly, more than challenged them — as was the case with the police ride alongs — in terms of, being around police officers and listening to police officers, is the greatest “eye-opening experience,” you can have. Because you realize how much of an “us vs. them” mentality is embedded in the culture, how they view those who commit crimes, and how they want the public to view them.
I find it more frustrating than I do enlightening. Because the “talking points,” if you will, are rather obvious and retreads from what I’ve heard for years. To do the obligatory throat-clearing here, that isn’t to say I thought the police officers who lectured us or helped us with driving police vehicles or any of that were “bad” necessarily. Most of them seemed nice. But I’m talking about the milieu in which they operate and what they signed up to operate within. That’s bigger than any one person or black-and-white binary understandings of “good” and “bad.”
All of that being said, let’s get back to the fun title. One of the activities for the course was to see a Taser demonstration. Typically, in year’s past, the police officer who runs the program is the one getting Tasered, just as he’s the one who demonstrates the “bite” from the police K-9.
But for some reason, my crazy self volunteered to do it. I floated the idea to the officer in charge, and he said he would talk to the police chief of the department.
Rejection. It was considered too risky and/or dangerous. Then about two weeks later or so, I get a call from the officer in charge saying the police chief had changed his mind, and thought it would be a worthwhile experience for someone in the press to get Tasered.
Unfortunately, my one regret about the experience is that I don’t have better video of it. One of the officers involved used his phone to capture the moment I got Tasered, and apparently he has a potato phone because it’s not the best quality. I also have since lost the original copy of that video, so here it is on my newspaper’s Facebook page:
The department and the three instructors present in the video were professional and kept me safe. As you can see, two officers are on either side of me to ensure I have a safe landing. Once the Taser hit, there’s about five seconds of intensity where your body completely locks up, almost like being paralyzed, and then it’s over. The officers kept me on my stomach when I tried to get up to a.) make sure I was okay and b.) to have the Citizens Police Academy class gather around to see the two prongs in my back and explain what happened.
But, I mean, that’s my macho man, tough guy instinct, particularly in front of police officers and other people, was to try to shake it off by standing up immediately.
I wouldn’t describe the experience as painful; it was more like an intense discomfort for those five seconds and then once it’s over, there’s an unbelievable feeling of adrenaline.
To my knowledge, I am the first citizen (police are citizens, too, but you get the point) Tasered in the more-than-decade history of the academy.
Why did I volunteer to do it? I have a bit of an adrenaline junkie and adventurous side to me. Perhaps a small part of me also wants to prove how tough I am, if you want to psychoanalyze me.
I would do it again, though. Would you be willing to get Tasered?