To the editor:
I recently completed the Tiverton Citizens’ Police Academy and I must say I am very impressed by the professionalism and quality of the police officers I met during this very rewarding experience. Sgt. Dan Raymond does an exceptional job of organizing and facilitating the entire program. I would recommend this to any Tiverton resident who wants to get to know the local constabulary and learn about Rhode Island law and police policies and procedures.
The course consists of 12 weekly two and a half hour sessions, each dealing with the various aspects of being a police officer during these incredibly challenging times. While this sounds like a significant investment of your time, trust me, you will find every one of the sessions to be very interesting and often entertaining.
You may think, as I did, that Tiverton is a relatively small town not nearly as dangerous as surrounding cities. As it turns out, our proximity to Fall River is a huge factor in the number and types of incidents the Tiverton police force must deal with.
I thought I was pretty solid in my knowledge and understanding of RI laws and thought surely police policy and procedures are just a matter of common sense. Little did I know how nuanced being a cop can be. For example, I always thought the proper thing to do when stopped while driving was to immediately go to the glove box for my registration and proof of insurance. Surely the police office would appreciate the time I would be saving him or her.
What never occurred to me was how trained — make that conditioned — the police officer is to observe everything you are doing once the decision is made to pull you over. And once you go for that glove box there is no way to know what you will pull out. In truth, the preferred behavior is to place both hands on the steering wheel where they can be easily seen by the officer.
I’ll bet most readers don’t know that there is a state law that requires drivers who are pulled over to turn on their car dome light. Makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it? And I now have a much better appreciation for why police officers can get a bit animated sometimes when folks are slow to respond to the request to remove hands from pockets. In general, this course will give you a very good appreciation of the fact that police officers are highly trained and everything they do is based on extensive analysis of the innumerable scenarios they are subjected to.
Much emphasis during the course was placed on when lethal force is acceptable. We got to see how well this had sunk in when we were allowed to use the Fire Arms Training Simulator (FATS). Each of us got to experience three training scenarios during which we had the use of a very realistic semi-automatic handgun. Each scenario is designed to test the ability to discern when and how to use lethal force (among many other behaviors). I learned that police officers have literally a split second to make a decision that could affect the lives of those they are sworn to protect as well as their own lives. I also learned how often police officers are sued even though they responded to a situation exactly as they were trained to.
The tour of the Tiverton Police Station was especially enlightening in that I was totally impressed with the efficient use of very limited space and facilities. The FATS system, which was provided by the company that insures the Tiverton police and many other departments across the country, is permanently housed at Sakonnet Bay Manor. I assume this is because there is no room for it at the station. While this is a credit to the management of Sakonnet Bay Manor, I suspect there is some inconvenience and inefficiency in this arrangement.
And finally there is the bonding that takes place among the Tiverton citizens who participate and the fine officers Sgt. Raymond brings in to present their respective areas of expertise. Chief Thomas Blakey should be very proud of his force. I can tell you, that last night of the course, none of us wanted to leave.
There will be future offerings of this course and I highly recommend that Tiverton residents keep an eye out for announcements. You will not regret getting involved in this worthwhile program.