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Citizens learn police drill

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
Ever wondered how it feels to fire a handgun? Or how police train their dogs? Or what the SWAT team actually does?
A group of Salisbury residents learned the answers to those questions and more during an 11-week Citizen’s Police Academy course.
The Salisbury Police Department hosts the annual session, and this week wrapped up the course with participants observing a SWAT demonstration.
The demonstration took place in an open field where a “hostage” ó News 14 Carolina reporter Jennifer Moxley ó was trapped in a patrol car and needed to be rescued amid “gunfire.”
Members of the SWAT team are made up of veteran officers from patrol, criminal investigation and other divisions.
SWAT team members conduct drills in all types of conditions ó outdoors in the rain or heat, at night or indoors or while wearing gas masks. They also conduct drills requiring them to shoot through glass or doors.
“We do reality-based training,” Deputy Chief Steve Whitley said.
The SWAT team works quickly to initiate an assault or extract a victim, he said. The police department has two FBI-trained hostage negotiators.
Team members practice at least once a month. However, snipers practice their shooting more often, Whitley said.
SWAT members volunteer but must go through strenuous tests and obstacles in order to qualify.
Dr. Pat Whitley has attended the Citizen’s Police Academy for the last five years.
“You learn new things about what the police do for the community. You get to know the policemen,” Whitley said.
She said the academy also provides an opportunity for participants to volunteer. Many of them return when the department has events such as Night Out, when they can help provide extra eyes for police.
“It’s something we can do for them,” she said.
Whitley said the sessions are also a time to catch up with fellow participants.
“It’s nice to know the policemen who put their life on the line,” Whitley said.
Michelle Smith has participated the past three years and said she has enjoyed every minute.
She expressed amazement at the way all the different departments tie together.
“You get a different perspective of what they do,” Smith said.
Every year, Smith said, she learns something new.
“There were officers who were there for me when I needed them. Plus, it’s fun,” she said.
This year was the first that Linda McCombs has attended the sessions.
She was encouraged by a friend who’d attended a couple of years ago. She said she also read about the classes in the newspaper.
“It’s been a very enlightening experience. It gives you an appreciation of your police force,” McCombs said.
Many of the sessions took place at the police department, but the program also included off-site sessions, including the SWAT program and a weapons demonstration.
The citizen’s academy began March 24. Just over 20 people participated in this year’s sessions, though the class can take up to 40.
For information about next year’s academy, contact the Salisbury Police Department at 704-638-5333.

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