20 ordinary people dedicate 3 hours every Tuesday night to learn about law enforcement.
It’s all a part of the Wheeling Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy.
For those students the biggest thing they’re learning is who is behind the badges keeping them safe on the streets.
For Meagan Rouse the citizen’s police academy has given her a new appreciation for her Fiance Wheeling Police Officer Korey Recinella.
Rouse said, “He doesn’t tell me everything that he does so you know being able to understand more of what he does helps me.”
Rosemary Ketchum uses the class as a tool in her role as the associate director of NAMI Greater Wheeling.
“A lot of people have misconceptions, pre-conceived notions of what our law enforcement actually does,” said Ketchum.
The 12 weeks are jam packed with presentations, a northern regional jail tour use of force simulator ride alongs, and more.
Instructor Corporal Garrett Pugh said the class is hands on for a reason.
Pugh said, “How hard it is to go and do our jobs and be safe.”
Like simulating a traffic stop at night.
“Flash light in this hand because I always have my gun hand free if need be,” said Pugh, “Be in the dark with blue flashing lights.”
He also said, “We’ll hide weapons or fake drugs or something in there and just to see if the participants can spot them like we’re trained to do, or we have to do when we’re dealing with someone on a traffic stop.”
The class is a serious a look into life or death decisions but after 8 weeks spent together it’s a look into life too.
Ketchum said, “They do humanize once you are able to sit in a class and listen to them tell their personal stories.”
Rouse said, “Taking this class I would still feel that they were more for our safety then trying to get us in trouble.”
Officers and instructors volunteer their time off duty for the academy the reward for them seeing people realize what it takes to protect with integrity.
“If it’s one person it’s good enough for us,” said Pugh.
“Those barriers break down when ordinary citizens like myself are really able to see inside the function of the department,” said Ketchum.