Citizens academy shows public 'what police do and why'

Sunday , April 13, 2014 - 11:32 AM

Loretta Park, Standard-Examiner Staff

FARMINGTON — Nikita Petersen laid down on the mat and within seconds received a 50,000-volt shot of electricity that contracted her muscles for about five seconds.

“I couldn’t get my breath and I was trying to scream, but I couldn’t,” said the Clearfield woman. “All I could compare it with is riding the Rocket at Lagoon.”

Petersen was among 11 students who volunteered to be Tased as part of the Citizen Police Academy presentation on Thursday at Farmington Police Department.

She signed up for the free 13-week course that is sponsored by seven law enforcement agencies — Woods Cross Police, North Salt Lake Police, Davis County Sheriff’s Office, Centerville Police, Sunset Police, Farmington Police and Bountiful Police — and by South Davis Metro Fire Agency.

Farmington Police Chief Wayne Hansen said the main reason his department decided to be one of the hosts this year is it is a positive way to reach out to the community and “it shows what police do and why.”

Learning about Tasers was the highlight of Thursday’s topic, which was defensive tactics, taught by Farmington Police Detective Scott Richardson.

Richardson told the students police should not rely on Tasers to solve a problem. He also said even though there have been people who died after they were shot by a Taser, no police officer who has been Tased during a training has died.

“It is the fall that hurts the person, not the Tasing,” Richardson said.

Police officers do get lazy and will use a Taser when simpler methods to calm down a person should be used, Richardson said.

“We get Taser dependent,” he said.

But when an officer does use a Taser they have to show a judge it was justified and reasonable, Richardson said.

Richardson also demonstrated how police handcuff people safely. He also discussed ways officers can protect themselves without resorting to using guns or Tasers.

And of course, the students all got to spend time handcuffing each other, as well as giving knee kicks to officers, who held protective pads in front of them.

Reading Elementary School Principal Shar Weight said she got a taste of Citizen Police Academy last fall when her best friend invited her to go to the shooting range with her.

“It was a blast,” Weight said.

Weight said she also has gained a better understanding and a deeper appreciation for what police officers do every day.

“When I look at them now, I see they are just like me, trying to do a job to make our environment safer,” Weight said.

Weight said she enjoyed the night when students did felony police stops and visited the Davis County sheriff’s dispatch center.

Weight was one of the students who choose not to be Tased.

“Watching how long five seconds lasts was amazing,” Weight said.

David Bray, 73, of Farmington did get Tased.

“I just want to say it incapacitated me,” Bray said.

Julie Amster, also of Farmington, was Tased and when it was over, all she said, was “That sucks.”

Topics the academy covers include accident investigations, crime prevention, homicide and K-9 units.

Applications are being accepted now for the 13-week course that begins in July. Slots are filling up fast and it is on a first-come-first serve basis. Those interested in applying must be at least 18 years old, a resident or business owner in Davis County, and have a good standing in the community. For more information, call Stephanie Gonzales with Woods Cross Police and the program coordinator at 801-678-6002801-678-6002.

Contact reporter Loretta Park at 801-625-4252801-625-4252 or Follow her on Twitter at @LorettaParkSE.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.