The Citizens’ Police Academy

I’m nosy. I may be discreet about it, but I want to know what’s up…I guess that’s natural for a writer.images-5

And since I’m currently writing inspirational romantic suspense, there’s going to be a good chance that I’m going to be writing a character in law enforcement. Really, this is pretty much true for any form of fiction.

Wherever you’ve got bad guys, you’ve got to have good guys. And contrary to popular opinion, most cops are the good guys. (I’m not looking to get into a debate over this–every profession has its petrified, chalky turds as well as its three-flusher manure-muffins…no question.)

But for the purposes of fiction–especially romance–cops are tops.

So, last winter, I signed up for the Citizens’ Police Academy run by our local Harford County Sheriff’s Office. They offer it every spring, and classes ran from mid-March through May.

What an opportunity! Especially for a writer–what better way to learn first-hand from the people who do wear the badge.

So this was a ten-week class of forty-eight participants. Each class was led by members of law enforcement who were experienced in the area of study. Some classes were traditional lecture/q&a format, others involved field trips to police-related sites. Field trips included:

The county detention center–a fascinating foray into the bowels of the institution led by the men who work there. Funny thing, whenever the inmates saw us, some of them were all up in the door windows–reminded me of my former high school students ‘acting a fool.’  Guess they were happy to see people–especially women.


The county courthouse–a stately old building with a new wing. What struck me was the surveillance cameras. I wonder if the women clerks who work the desk know that a camera is pointed at their backsides all day. I can just hear the officers monitoring it, “There goes Janice picking her pantyhose out of her ass again.”


A tour of the shooting range along with a K-9 demonstration. Definitely worth a drive to the outer northeast-boonies.



The Emergency Management Office/911 Call Center: Ever wonder what happens when you call 911? How do those operators operate? Well, it all starts with a desk that holds five computer screens…and if the computers go down, a metal flip-card folio that holds the script for every conceivable emergency.


A return to the shooting range for a situation-specific series of exercises to simulate real-world police challenges.


A tour of the newest precinct along with the garage where all the cool toys hang out–the SWAT team urban assault vehicle, HAZMAT vehicles, undercover surveillance vehicles, marine rescue vehicles–oh, and a spare toilet or two that must be there in the event Danny Glover’s LETHAL WEAPON character Roger Murtaugh is booby-trapped while dropping a deuce.



And the absolute COOLEST experience: In very small groups, we experienced the VIRTRA 300 Simulator first-hand. As participants, we used real Glocks fitted with lasers and communicated/role played with potential criminals via sophisticated computer programs in which INTERACTIVE situations played out. All I can say is that after experiencing the Vitra 300, one is much less likely to armchair quarterback all those news reports where police officers must respond to seat-of-their-pants situations. Wow. This experience gets the adrenaline going.M-Virtra-1

So last Tuesday night, I graduated from the class along with forty-seven of my classmates. The Sheriff’s department put on quite a ceremony for us including an honor guard, speeches, and a reception with cake and inmate-baked cookies.

FWC between Sheriff Gahler and County Executive Barry Glassman
We’re gonna need a wider lens…

In closing, if you’re ever lucky enough to be offered a chance at a Citizens’ Police Academy, go for it! It was a memorable learning experience that allowed regular nosy-bodies, writers, and interested citizens a focused peek behind the badge.

We are now able to advocate for our community law enforcement professionals–a win/win for everybody.

foxyThanks for stopping by,

Susan J. Anderson

Foxy Writer Chick


5 thoughts on “The Citizens’ Police Academy

    1. It was absolutely fascinating. What a great way to spend Wednesday nights for a 10 week stretch. Look into it if you get a chance. At the very least, see if you can do a ride-along with the cops. That’s really something to see. 🙂


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