After four years of dormancy, the Portland Police Bureau has resurrected the Citizen Police Academy program in an attempt to foster a better connection between officers and citizens of Portland.
The Bureau says the class is intended to break down inaccurate perceptions some community members have of Portland police through training and education.
The two-month class is held weekly each Thursday. Each division within the bureau is responsible for teaching a class. The members of the class participate in the various responsibilities that officers have, including driving and shooting guns.
"This is the quintessential program to educate citizens," said Mike Crebs, the captain of the training division. "Other agencies are secretive, but we are transparent."
Last Thursday’s class, for example, was an exhibition of the bureau’s use of "less lethal weapon systems" like Tasers.
Since introducing Tasers to the police force, the Bureau has faced several high-profile cases of questionable use, drawing public concern about how well officers are trained to use the new devices.
"People get this idea of police from the media and from TV and it’s not always right. Here they get to see first hand how we train our officers. Here they get a front row seat to actually look inside the bureau," Crebs said.
Tom Forsythe of Portland Police research and development led Thursday’s class.
"Other agencies are not up to snuff like we are," Forsythe said, describing the Bureau and its recent implementation of Tasers into the field.
During the class Bryan Baisinger and classmate Liz Flanning volunteered to be shocked by with the X26 Taser.
"[The shock] does stop immediately," Fanning said, "but it did hurt a lot."
"It had that spark plug feel, like an electric horse fence," Baisinger said.
"I don’t know if it has a therapeutic aspect, but I was in a tournament this morning and my hip feels a lot better now," he said. "I’m serious."
Citizen Police Academy members are often drawn to the program by personal curiosity.
Katie Batten, a criminal justice and community health major at PSU, was introduced to the program during her internship with Portland Police, but didn’t expect the program to be so extensive.
"There is a whole other side of the police that you don’t realize," Batten said.
"I’ve read about a lot of the things police do, but now they have been brought to my face."
"This program is educational. It’s an introduction to the police program, and it’s very hands-on, but people won’t run around being cops when it’s over," Portland Police spokesman Brian Schmautz said.
Baisinger, a Portland State student and athletic chiropractor said he was interested in understanding his patients better.
"I have a lot of patients who are police. This profession is injury-orientated; they have
‘pre-game’ stress and ‘post-game’ depression. I mostly just wanted to find out if my view of the police was justified, and it is extremely justified," Baisinger said.
"The class is intended to train community members how to think like police," Schmautz said.
Classes began in late September with 16 students in attendance. The precinct was hoping for at least 30.
"If only a couple of people come then the program won’t be cost-effective," Schmautz said. "In order for this thing to work the citizens of Portland have to really want it."
The bureau would like to have the class at least once a year to improve relations between police and citizens.
"More people should take this class and see how human the police are, and how hard they try," Baisinger said.