The experiences that police officers encounter in their jobs can trigger some deep emotions — and those enrolled in the Citizens Police Academy learned about some of the most disturbing aspects of those response calls.
Detective Stacy Anderkin told participants about the stressors involved with various investigations conducted by police, specifically those involving crimes against children. Anderkin is a special detective who focuses on child abuse cases for both the city police and the sheriff's department. Those investigations often trigger deep emotions for officers involved in the investigation, as Lt. Jessie Williams told participants.
"Alcoholism, suicide and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) are at high rates for police officers," Williams said. "We go do what we have to do, then come back here and de-escalate. We have to go through training to learn how to de-escalate or we couldn't deal with it."
Williams said he has had training through the Sergeants' Academy with classes on Stress and Wellness — information that sergeants take back to their worksites and share with other officers. He said the process of de-escalating involves finding a place to think through the situation, oftentimes called "the Happy Chair." But dwelling too long is just as trying as ignoring the situation.
"I have a place at home and I sit for 10 or 15 minutes, then I have to get up and do something else," he explained. "If I sit there for two or three hours, it doesn't help anything."
The class then moved into its second phase — Interrogation procedures. Participants had begun looking at a burglary case last week and were instructed on the procedures used to conduct the questioning phase. They then watched a video of a simulated interrogation with a suspect believed to be involved in the crime. Williams used the Reid Technique's Nine Steps of Interrogation, which outlines how officers can conduct the questioning session.
"We took a man to jail for DUI but then the K-9 dog alerted to some drugs and we found weed in the vehicle," Williams said.
He also pointed out how the suspects' actions can often be the key indicator in establishing involvement, i.e., guilt or knowledge of the situation. Certain postures and movements, he said, show the suspect can be nervous — another early sign of knowledge about the alleged offense.
However, during the video presented, one male suspect answered — and avoided — some questions. He then asked for an attorney. Williams, at that point, got up from the chair and ended the interrogation.
The Citizens Police Academy is a free service offered to citizens in the area who want to learn more about the training and situations by police officers. The program is intended to give citizens a closeup view of the various aspects of police work and to illustrate the demanding and difficult roles that officers play in the community.