CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Police Department welcomed the public Wednesday night to the annual Citizen’s Police Academy.
16-year-old Ryan Winstead attended because she’s watched all the crime shows on TV—but wanted to see what it’s really like to be a police office.
She was the first attendee to raise her hand to participate in the crime-situation simulator, which put the East Chapel Hill high school student in the middle of a domestic dispute. Acting as the officer, Winstead faced a drunken woman charging at her with a knife.
“Now I’m not just like, ‘Oh, they’re just protecting people.’ I understand now— it’s really intense!” Winstead said.
Officers invited others to give the simulator a try. Participants learned just how difficult it is to act as a police officer and then react in a matter of seconds.
CHPD trains on the simulator, which is made up by a projector and a big screen. The interactive program responds to the actions of the person doing the exercise.
Another simulation involved a suicidal man shooting at the officer and then shooting himself.
“You see thing is CSI like that but being in the situation is totally different. You realize at that point that you have to be aware of everyone else and not just yourself. You have to protect everyone else,” Winstead said.
Investigator Johnnie Britt
Other topics covered included equipment demonstrations, arrest procedures, magistrate dealings, and a crime scene and forensic evidence overview.
This year’s Citizen’s Police Academy had a different set-up than in years past. Srgt. Josh Mecimore says the CHPD worked with students from UNC’s School of Government to condense the program.
“It gives them a lot of information in a really short amount of time and I think it gives them a really good insight into the daily workings of the police department,” Srgt. Mecimore explained.
Officers also shared their personal stories, getting candid about the dangerous situations they’d been through.
CHPD Police Chief Chris Blue
Attendees had the chance to ask officers questions after their presentations. Jim Ward of the Chapel Hill Town Council and James Barrett of the Chapel Hill Carrboro Schools BoE showed their support by participating.
“A big part of it is to meet a lot of the people and get them involved in what we do. A lot of what we do relies on community involvement,” Srgt. Mecimore said.
WCHL will attend Sunday night’s session of the Citizen’s Police Academy; listen in on Monday for a full-recap.