Week nine of the Citizens Police Academy was one of the most anticipated classes. This week representatives from the Sevierville Police Dept. took the students to the indoor shooting range located in Sevierville.
Inside the shooting range, students were supplied with safety glasses, hearing protection, a gun and free ammunition.
Before taking the students to the shooting range, Sgt. Bryan Lewelling gave a 20 minute briefing on proper handling of firearms and ammunition. The students were then taken into the firing range where they were given an opportunity to test their marksmanship on paper targets hung at varying lengths. The targets, which have an image of a person printed on them, are hung on two clips on a metal rack that is suspended by a cable. An electric motor runs the target out to three varying lengths. The first distance is 21 feet. The second and third are 45 feet and 75 feet, respectively.
Naturally, precision diminishes as the target is moved further out. Each student was given as many as five clips that each held 15 bullets. They were provided with standard police-issued 40 caliber pistols and 9mm Glocks. The students were taken in three at a time and paired off with officers to ensure safety.
Assessing the Citizens Police Academy
The classroom work was concluded after week nine. In week 10 the students will report to the Civic Center in Sevierville for a graduation and cookout with their former instructors.
As the nephew of a cop who was once shot in the line of duty, I grew up with a lot of respect for the law and the men and women who lay their lives on the line daily to enforce it.
When I first moved to Tennessee, I accepted a job at the Citizen Tribune in Morristown. Part of my beat was the crime beat. It was part of my job to go to the police dept. each morning at 5:30 to get police reports and take them back to the paper to forge them into a story.
During the three years I was there, I covered many police-related stories. Some were heart-warming, such as when the off-duty police officers would volunteer to help underprivileged kids in the Shop with a Cop program. This program was an effort by the police to provide Christmas joy to children who would have otherwise had nothing for Christmas. The police raised money then took as many as 100 children to area dept. stores and helped them buy Christmas gifts.
I saw the police volunteer when Food On Foot Ministries distributed school supplies to underprivileged area children. Several off-duty officers volunteered to help give out supplies. I met an officer once who came to the aid of three teens from Oklahoma who was on their way to Virginia to help another teen that was having family problems. Their car broke down in Morristown and it was the police that came to the rescue.
When hearing the kids had not had anything to eat that day, one officer took them to a local restaurant and bought them a meal with his own money. The officers worked together to get these kids safely back home. I reported on the story given such stories often go unreported.
Then I’ve witnessed the tragic side of an officer’s job. When a Morristown officer took his life I interviewed the chief who struggled to maintain composure.
Some officers develop cynicism as a result of dealing with the dregs of humanity on a daily basis. Not everyone they deal with could be considered as such. But, I have seen examples that would make anyone cynical of the human condition.
I recall a Morristown case in which a drug dealer failed to pay his suppliers. The suppliers retaliated by going to the home of the drug dealer’s 94-year-old grandfather and torturing and killing him. The victim had nothing to do with the drug deal. Imagine what it must have been like to investigate the tragedy. Fortunately, the police caught the parties involved and they will spend many years in prison.
Another case in Grainger County involved a man who had attempted to murder his family. He shot his in-laws and stabbed his wife and son. I sat in court for days listening to this case. I listened as an attorney berated the victims of the assailant. He even attempted to get the wife to admit the sadistic attack was her fault because she had spent too much money. Unable to break the wife with his cross examination, he went after the police attempting to prove they had not done their jobs properly.
The CPA gave students a glimpse into the work of the police department and some of the challenges they face. My uncle retired from law enforcement in the late ‘80s. During his career the worst drug offenders he dealt with were stoners who were high on marijuana Never could he have imagined the drugs people routinely use today.
Our modern police are waging a war against a drug epidemic in this nation. Not only do they face the addict that is high on illegal drugs, but prescription ones as well.
These illegal drugs, primarily crystal meth, are manufactured from chemicals that taken independently of one another could cause death. Addicts using meth quickly experience excited delirium which causes a release of adrenaline making them difficult to subdue. Some have died in police custody and their families blame the police for their deaths with charges of police brutality. When in reality their deaths were the result of years of drug abuse and their internal organs, including their hearts, were simply worn out from years of abuse.
Another challenge faced by police is the manner in which they are depicted by the liberal media. Not the conservative media, but the liberal media. I make this distinction to emphasize that there is a difference in the perception of the police by the two media factions.
The liberal media makes a case every time a suspect is shot and they attempt to sensationalize the matter. They will almost instinctively take the side of the criminal element and demonize the police. The conservative media is the polar opposite.
Take the Trayvon Martin case for example. The liberal media attempted to depict Trayvon as this sweet child whose life was taken by a thug with connections to the police department. Martin was shot by a member of the neighborhood watch named George Zimmerman. The liberal media published photos of an eighth grade baby-faced Trayvon and photos of a 230 pound Zimmerman in what appeared to be a mug shot. They instinctively took the word of Martin’s supporters who portrayed him as a victim and ignored many facts that begged to be presented.
When I first heard of the story something struck me as odd. According to his parents, Trayvon had been suspended from school for five days for being late one day. Clearly, no school will suspend a child for being late. They give detention. The photos shown on TV of Trayvon were his eighth grade photos. The photos shown of Zimmerman were taken before he lost more than 60 pounds.
Members of the conservative media later revealed the truth. Trayvon’s phone messages indicated he was seeking to buy a gun and drugs. He had been suspended for drug possession. He owned burglary tools and when he physically attacked Zimmerman, he weighed 180 pounds and stood more than six feet tall. Zimmerman, by contrast was 160 pounds and stood just 5’7. Zimmerman was tried and found not guilty for the shooting death of Martin.
In Ferguson, the liberal media is portraying Michael Brown, a known member of the Crips Gang as a victim of police brutality. They ignore the fact that Brown had committed a strong-armed robbery and punched a cop breaking bones in his face by the force of the blow.
You will never see the liberal media depict the police as good guys. It is the conservative media that does that. It is the liberal media that reports that the police shot more than 100 suspects in 2013. You never hear them admit that the police made more than 12 million arrests in 2013. Of that 12 million only 100 were shot. That clearly indicates the police use force only as a last resort and usually when they themselves are being shot at. Yet, the integrity of the criminal seldom gets questioned by the liberal media. They never cover a story when cops have performed above and beyond the call of duty.
The fact is there are many people that simply chose to live on the wrong of the law and I have met them and dealt with them. I remember a man who came to the paper in Morristown and asked me to publish a story of police brutality. According to him two police officers picked him up and took him downtown where they beat him mercilessly. I told him I would look at the police surveillance videos and investigate the matter. At that moment he changed his story. It turned out he and a friend were arrested for public intoxication. And when they were taken to the jail they attacked two jailers who defended themselves, as they have a right to do so, and beat the two suspects into compliance. A cop has a right to defend himself. This man admitted to me he had been arrested many times for drugs and other charges. I didn’t publish a story because I felt the cops were not in the wrong but the suspect was. The liberal media would have gone after the cops and played free and loose with the facts.
Yet, the liberal media routinely champions the cause of these career criminals who would appear to have no credibility while the conservative media would champion the cause of the police.
Are there bad cops on the beat? Of course. And in time they always get weeded out of the departments. Case in point, in Morristown, a cop who suffered a back injury got hooked on Oxycontin. He was later fired after he began shaking down known drug dealers to obtain illegal drugs. Months later he went to a local pharmacy where he pulled his service revolver and robbed the store for drugs. He was caught by his former fellow police officers, tried and convicted. When he was sent to prison he did not receive special treatment from his former comrades in blue. In fact, they were quick to make it publicly known they supported his incarceration because he had disgraced the department and what it stood for. For the most part I believe that a vast majority of cops are honest professionals that deserve our respect. In many inner cities there is a culture of distrust being instilled in children and the police are faced with the difficult task of winning the support of people that are taught to distrust them. This distrust simply breeds a criminal element. To break the cycle parents need to teach their children to respect the law.
It takes a special breed of people to get up in the morning and go off to do a job where a bad day at the office could be a matter of life and death. We encourage the community to get involved. One approach is to attend the next Citizens Police Academy that will begin in the latter part of 2015. Contact Matt Ayers at the SPD for more information.