By Adam Unger SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A peaceful protestor sat in the street blocking traffic in both directions. She refused to move from her spot and ended up lying on her hands in order to stay where she was and support her cause.
All the police officer had to do was get the protestor’s hands behind her back to be handcuffed and remove her from the street. But the “officer” was just a participant in Syracuse’s civilian police academy.
This week’s civilian police academy was the third of its kind here in Central New York. Both full-time and part-time trainers, along with officers, were present to discuss and demonstrate what they experience day to day.
“It’s important to do any kind of community-police interaction where we can have open dialogue and discussions,” Detective Mark Rusin said. “But this also provides some insight into what police officer training looks like and some of the experience that officers may have.”
Along with the protestor experience, there was also a hand-to-hand exercise and scenarios in which participants were “armed” and had to deal with fights that stemmed from a robbery and an actor who was threatening to take his own life.
“It’s like I have to stay safe, and I have all this background noise,” Nodesia Hernandez, a special education teacher at Nottingham High School, said after taking part in an exercise. “As a police officer, I can see a lot of stress. I can see a lot of thinking without thinking.”
Speaking from experience when I took part in an exercise, even tying my shoe became more difficult after going through what they have to go through. After the exercises, Rusin and the other officers and actors led a de-briefing in a classroom setting.
“One of the primary focuses is the de-briefings at the end of the night,” Rusin said. “There’s so many added benefits to doing those off-line conversations and those de-briefings at the end of the night.”
While in the de-briefing, I learned that Hernandez and I weren’t the only ones that ran into some problems making calls that officers have to make on a daily basis.
“Sometimes it’s hard,” Hernandez said. “Because you don’t have a second to make a choice.”