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Police designed a multi-day experience to put civilians in officers' shoes.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Groth, left, and Capt. Jon Carlson were excited to offer the Sherwood Police Departments inaugural academy for community members interested in learning what city police officers jobs are actually like.Perhaps you are interested in a law enforcement career. Or you may be curious about how a local police department operates.

Either way, the Sherwood Police Department has a new program you might want to explore. It's called the Citizens Police Academy.

"It's something we've had a vision for for several years," said Sherwood Police Chief Jeff Groth. "We've developed the program so that it would give a community member a very short, intensive foray into what it's like to be a Sherwood police officer."

Police Capt. Jon Carlson went to work developing the program, which started as a pilot program in mid-August with 12 citizens participating.

"I looked at several different academies, and one thing I noticed was there was a lot of lectures," Carlson said. "One thing I wanted to do with this academy — was have more hands-on experience."

As examples, Carlson said the program features mock traffic stops, defensive tactics, use-of-force review and scenario-based training using video simulations.

Ride-alongs, where a citizen joins an officer in the police car, have been offered by police departments for years, but the Citizens Police Academy takes the experience up another notch.

"When you do a ride-along, you're just basically sitting there watching the officer do all the work," Carlson said.

In Sherwood, the academy lets citizens do the work. For instance, citizens can drive the police car and initiate traffic stops — albeit within the safety of the police department lot.

"We're not going out and doing it on citizens, we're using staff members as the violators," Carlson said.

By staying on-campus, as it were, citizens in the academy can operate in a safe and controlled environment. Academy participants get a chance to use the radio, turn on police lights and contact pretend violators.

Speaking of academy participants, Groth said, "We train them with the same tools and methods that we train our officers with. We taught them how to handcuff. They were using real handcuffs on one another. We taught them the basics of defensive tactics … how to stand, how to approach people."

The experience also includes shooting in the police department range.

"We had two different range times," Groth said. "The first time, we just showed them the proper stance and how to hold and handle a firearm. Then on the second range visit, they actually got to shoot the same firearms that we carry."

Those who attend the academy are placed in shoot-or-no-shoot video scenarios, where they have to decide which situation would require them to fire their weapon.

"We want them to recognize the challenges and the split-second decisions that their officers have to make, and what they go through on a day-to-day basis," Groth said.

The Sherwood Citizens Police Academy is not a long, drawn-out process. It takes place over a few days. That's exactly what the Sherwood Police Department prefers.

"A lot of agencies will spread this out over the course of a month, or a couple of months," Groth said. "We wanted it to be more of an immersion model, where we just immerse them. We modeled that after what Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue does on their community academy. It's a very successful model. I like that model. It's easier on our staff, because we can deliver it quickly."

At press time, there is no firm date set for the second Citizens Police Academy, but the community is encouraged to check social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

For his part, Groth is glad the department has started the program, and he's looking forward to the next academy.

"Our community gets to have an opportunity to experience all of this and to get to know what it's all about," Groth said. "We get to build stronger relationships within the community. Folks are going to spend several hours with our team, and they're going to get to know them on a first-name basis."

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