TEMPLE TERRACE — If you want to get a real sense of a police officer's job, here's your chance: The Police Department is inviting citizens to undergo a one-day training program to learn about crime scene processing, criminal investigation, SWAT team tactics, police dog operations, firearms and more.
"Everybody who comes through loves it,'' said Officer Stefanie Huertas, who oversees the program.
The free Citizens Police Academy, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Temple Terrace Public Works Facility, 11210 N 53rd St., is open to everyone, not just residents, but space is limited. Huertas said 13 citizens have signed up. There is room for about 10 more.
The firearms simulation training is a big hit with participants, she said. People stand before a video screen with a pistol that fires a laser beam and must decide in a split second, as police do, whether it is a "shoot or don't shoot'' situation.
Angelina Albano, who participated last year and has signed up for this year's event, was happy to have made the right call on the simulator. For the police officer, she pointed out, "you want to come home at the end of the day. By my reactions, I came home.''
Albano, a Tampa resident and cousin of police Chief Kenneth Albano, said she was drawn to the first event by the police dog demonstrations, explaining she is a member of the Tampa Bay German Shepherd Dog Club.
"I enjoyed all facets,'' she said.
This year, she's taking along her father, Nick Albano.
Participants will also learn how to look for clues in the crime scene processing class and check out a radar gun in traffic enforcement. The SWAT team will show off its special equipment. Citizen trainees also learn about marine enforcement, narcotics identification, internal affairs operations, defensive tactics and use of Tasers, and emergency dispatch.
A free barbecue lunch will be served to participants.
Temple Terrace has conducted more than 40 citizens police training events. They give citizens a real sense of what police do and provide a chance for officers to explain why they take certain actions, Huertas said, explanations that aren't always included in news reports.
Philip Morgan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3435.