Journal-World reporters Shaun Hittle and Ian Cummings are attending the Lawrence Police Department's 2013 Citizen's Academy twice per week for the next month. On Wednesdays and Fridays, they'll highlight a few things they learned from the night before.
Day One: By the end of the first hour, half the group was broken, torn down into little pieces by our superiors, who quickly weeded out those who wouldn't last the grueling twice-per-week classroom sessions of the Lawrence Police Department's Citizen's Academy.
Many didn't even survive the catered pre-class dinner.
OK, that's all a lie. We weren't becoming cops, and no one would be pushing us to physical and mental exhaustion. In truth, we'd be learning about police work in a well-heated, friendly classroom environment while munching on sandwiches.
Most of our two dozen or so fellow classmates were just regular Lawrence residents, hoping to learn more about police work, social workers, retirees, and college students looking for a new perspective.
Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib, though, didn't coddle the crew. While hitting on a wide range of topics — everything from drunken driving arrests to murder investigations — his point was clear: Police work is serious business.
Class attendees were treated to police dash camera, high-speed chase videos, highlighting the often times dangerous work of Lawrence officers, as well as nationally reported police shootouts, some featured at the end of this post.
But one video quieted the room.
Khatib showed excerpts from a taped interview conducted by Lawrence police with a man, now in prison, for repeatedly sexually assaulting a teenage family member.
The film was grainy and the dialogue casual, lacking the television police show drama confession environment. Instead, the officers tried to sympathize with the man, using years of training experience.
Often, the best police approach when interviewing child sexual offenders is not an aggressive, antagonistic style, Khatib explained.
Officers instead tried to be sympathetic and understanding.
What the man did was understandable, police said. The girl looked much older than 13, they concluded.
It worked, and elicited a confession later used to help convict the man.
The clip was stomach-turning and horrifying. But real. And highlighted the difficult police work the public never gets to see.
For my money, I learned more in those five minutes than in a lifetime of watching police shows.