I wouldn’t equate it to my bachelors degree, but graduating from the Keller Police Department Citizen Police Academy was a good moment, too.
I learned a lot, and not the kind of things I was expecting. Sure, now I know how Keller police officers train for SWAT, active shooters and building searches. And yes, now I know more about the department’s traffic enforcement policy, drug enforcement and the penal code.
But what I wasn’t expecting as much, but will stay with me longer, is the personal side of the police force.
I rode along with Officer Chris Happ, who has some good stories about providing security in Las Vegas. Cpl. Buddy Davis loves telling stories about odd or interesting traffic stops, cases or citizen complaints. And who could forget Officer Maureen Cooke, who recently had to retire her K-9 partner, Rowdy?
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School Resource Officer Michael Fejes and Officer Darrell Potts put me through building search and disturbance response scenarios, forcing me to simulate making some of the same critical split-second decisions. It was tough.
Possibly the most meaningful things, really, were just hearing the officers discuss the level of danger they encounter —or at least have to be prepared for —every day at the office. I remember being struck when Davis said that traffic stops are of the most dangerous parts of the job.
I’ve been stopped before, and was always nervous because I was afraid of a ticket. I had never thought about the danger involved for the officer walking up to my door.
Davis told us about one time when he pulled over a vehicle, he quickly got up to the driver’s door, where he saw the man reaching into the backseat.
There was a shotgun in the backseat, he said.
I and dozen-and-a-half graduates from the class are now eligible for the CPA Alumni Association and for Volunteers in Police Services, which we learned about during the first class. I hope to see some of them continue on in support of the KPD.
Keller is a bit of a bubble. It feels safe, it has a low crime rate that has dipped despite a population increase. It has a good police department, with an emphasis on transparency and customer service, which you don’t see every day.
But the city isn’t immune from crime. This class served as a good reminder.
It also helped put me in the shoes of a police officer, if just for a moment, and it’s far different than my expectations.
Mark David Smith, 817-390-7808