On Saturday I had the opportunity to help train our Civil Disturbance Unit by participating in role playing. I did this 2 years ago and then last year had another engagement (or was on our honeymoon) and wasn’t able to help out. I got involved after Citizens Police Academy in 2008 when I became part of Citizens Police Academy Alumni. It’s cool because they’ve already done background checks and such on you, so it’s not as much of a liability as if they just posted it on Facebook asking for volunteers. You just never know who might want to “help”.
This year I talk my friend Danielle and her sister Brianna into going with me, and my friend Jonathan was already planning on going as well. It was so nice to go with friends! The girls were nervous because they didn’t know what to expect. Rightfully so, you’re going against the riot police, even in a controlled situation it’s pretty intense. But this time wasn’t too bad, worst part was 2.5 hours of waiting to throw things.
Training is important with any job, but police officers have to be ready for anything at anytime. Rioters have a very specific reason for not wanting to listen to the police. They are “protecting” their rights, they are drunk, they don’t understand, they are scared, they just want to be left alone, and so many other reasons. Last year, JMU off campus housing had a huge uncontrolled party and people began to riot. Dumpsters were set on fire, bottles were thrown, even a police K-9 was hit (you have no idea how upset that made me and a lot of people!). Read an article about that incident by hburgnews.com here.
Our job for Saturday morning was to taunt, throw tennis balls, and loot. Sometimes it seems fun and sometimes its just as scary as I can imagine an uncontrolled situation being. But it was completely controlled. As role players, we had a liaison officer who would communicate instructions and let us know how the officers will respond. Those guys, when they are suited up, are just plain scary looking. If it wasn’t training, I wouldn’t be throwing things and yelling, I would be running away!
Afterward, we thank the officers and they thank us too. I feel like I am really helping the community when I help police officers train, or help citizens understand why officers do certain things. I can leave feeling good about what I have done.