In six weeks, if you see me out and about, you will be able to call me "Sergeant Sadie."
Not really, but by then I will have graduated from Citizen's Police Academy, which is currently being taught by Lt. Trey Clanton of the Shelbyville Police Department to a group of 12 or so each Tuesday night.
About a month or so ago, I interviewed Officer Carol Jean for a story I wrote about an elderly woman who had fallen victim to a scam. Officer Jean had sort of made looking after this woman -- making sure she didn't send any more of her money to the Jamaican scammers -- a personal mission of hers.
Officer Jean and I drove out, together, to see the woman one morning when I was working on the story, and I had the great pleasure of getting to visit with the kind officer during that ride, getting to know her just a little bit.
As a features writer, I really don't have much contact with the police in Shelbyville. I am happy to leave that beat to veteran reporter David Melson. In fact, last month, when I went to the police station to interview Officer Jean, was the first time I have ever been to the station.
After riding along with Officer Jean to see the victim, I had indicated to the officer that I would love to do a ride-along with her one day, and write a story about "A day in the life of a local policeman," or something to that effect.
Officer Jean agreed it would be a great story and she said she'd be glad to help me set up a ride-along. I also felt this would be a great way to better acquaint myself with the ins and outs of local law enforcement, since I'm currently pretty clueless, thanks to the need for flowery features (my specialty).
Well, about two days after I had met Officer Jean, she called me and said she had an even better idea ... for me to attend the upcoming Citizens Police Academy. She told me I'd get to learn all sorts of things about our local justice system as well as the duties of a police officer.
I'd even learn how to shoot a gun.
It sounded like a great opportunity for me; both educational and entertaining, so I cleared it with my editor and publisher and signed up for the class without hesitation.
Citizens Police Academy began several years ago as a way to educate the general public and also attract people to the profession. I have been told that several officers, including Jason Williams, one of this year's instructors, decided to go through the real police academy after graduating from this course.
The class was put on hold for some reason for about eight years. They decided to resume teaching it this year; I will be a graduate of the 14th class.
Last Tuesday was my first class of the seven-week course. Unfortunately, I missed the first class due to a miscommunication with the department, but that's okay, I have been told I showed up just in time for the fun.
At my first class, last Tuesday, we heard from Assistant District Attorney Richard Cawley, who gave us an overview on the court process. We talked about different types of misdemeanors and felonies; and how important the relationship between police officers and prosecutors is.
"Police officers are our eyes and ears," Cawley told us, noting how important it is for officers to write detailed accounts for all traffic stops, especially DUIs, so that the prosecutors can assure justice is met.
We also learned, literally, how cops make a traffic stop; things they do to ensure the safety of themselves and the driver. For instance, Jason Williams told us that when approaching a vehicle officers also touch the rear of the vehicle, on a specific place on the trunk, just in case something happens to the officer and the vehicle makes a run for it.
This week, we are actually going to go out and make traffic stops, so make sure you obey all the laws ... otherwise you might have to answer to Sergeant Sadie.
-- Sadie Fowler is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette. She will be writing a series of columns on her experiences in Citizens Police Academy, and those columns will run each Thursday. Sadie can be reached at (931) 684-1200, ext. 214, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.