Inaugural Rusk Citizens Police Academy celebrates graduation
Chief Joe Williams, center, poses with members of the first Rusk Citizens Police Academy following their graduation ceremony on
Tuesday, Feb. 26.
After receiving their diplomas, the class presented the chief with a plaque of
appreciation and commendation bar for ‘outstanding community
It was with much pomp and circumstance the 21 members of the Rusk Police Department’s inaugural Citizens Police Academy graduated, during a presentation held during the Rusk City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Rusk Police Chief Joe Williams presented each cadet with a certificate and group photo after giving the Rusk Council and audience members a run-down of what went on during the eight-week course.
“I’m pleased with how our first citizen’s police academy went,” Rusk Police Chief Joe Williams said during the meeting. “This was inspired by the attendance of our department’s National Night Out events over the last two years. Since NNO is only one time a year, we wanted to do something more for our community for the rest of the year.
“It went so well, and word has gotten out about it, that we’re going to hold our second academy much sooner than we expected.”
First-time CPA alumni are Jeanie Swink, Steve Goode, Josie Fox, Tracy Session, Bridgett and Robby Tosh, Rickey and Marilyn Cleveland, Antanacio ‘Nacho’ Lopez, Ben Mims, Kim Beathard, Jaleea Dowling, Tara Tatarski, Cristin Parker, Shyann Fairchild, Monica Thomasson, Pat Hardy, Toni Dillard, Sam O’Neal, Bart Reddoch and Rhonda Robinson.
“We worked hard to make sure we didn’t have just one section of the community participating,” Williams said.
One of the main reasons the RPD wanted to hold the academy was to show the common citizen what it’s like to be on the job and why police officers do the things they do.
“We wanted to bring a better understanding to our community members on why and how we do things,” Williams said. “What you see on television and in the movies usually isn’t realistic. We tried to cover a little bit of our policies and procedures so when they see those red and blue lights in their rearview mirrors, they understand an officer’s actions in that situation.”
During the academy, cadets got to drive the patrol cars, with lights and sirens blasting; shoot rifles, shotguns and handguns at a supervised shooting range; conduct mock traffic stops and faux field sobriety tests; work crime-scene senarios, including a double-murder, a potential overdose and a bank robbery; and worked simulated active shooter incidents at Rusk High School.
“I had a blast,” Rhonda Robinson said. “The hands-on parts were amazing. The department did a wonderful job and I have immense respect for them!”
Every academy grad received a certificate of completion, a class photo and kind words from Williams.
“I want to stop and thank Chief Williams and the entire Rusk Police Department for sharing their time and expertise. I’ve worn my shirt every Tuesday for class and I’ve gotten a ton of opportunities to talk about the academy – it’s been a wonderful way to get to know our officers.”
Nacho Lopez agreed and added, “It really puts it in a new light – when someone puts on that uniform, they have to have a totally different mind-set and when you learn why it’s that way, you just have to go ‘wow.’”
Sam O’Neal said, “I learned a great deal from the Chief and his department. It was a definite eye-opener, because we only ever see it from our perspective. But when you learn, it only takes six seconds for something to go down, and an officer never knows what they’re approaching from one situation to the next – they got to do what they got to do.
“I couldn’t do what they do,” O’Neal said, jokingly addressing the Council members. “They need a raise!”
At the end of the cadets’ graduation, Robby and Bridgett Tosh presented Chief Williams with a plaque of his own, commemorating his leadership of the first academy.
“There was never a boring part,” Bridgett Tosh said. “We want to thank you and your department for taking the time to hold the academy. We also thank the city for its support in this. It really was a great experience – I’d recommend it to anyone.”
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