Steven Ullman was sitting at his wife’s restaurant with Beverly Hills Police Officer Joseph Carrott when the officer got a call about a possible domestic violence situation in progress.
Officer Carrott jumped into his patrol car. And Ullman, an accountant, jumped right in with him.
“My heart was beating out of my chest,” Ullman said. “It was like going on a ride at Magic Mountain. You’re flying down streets 70, 80 miles per hour. My adrenaline is pumping. I was ready to burst. And I look at him; he’s so calm. It’s just a day on the job for him.”
For Ullman and other participants of the Beverly Hills Citizen’s Police Academy, this kind of up-close view of police work has left him with a deeper respect and appreciation for law enforcement. He and his classmates will graduate from the 10-week course today with a greater understanding of the complexities of policing.
“He’s driving down the middle of Wilshire, which police do because they have less chance of getting hit by people who don’t pull over to the right the way they’re supposed to. He’s explaining all the penal codes, and I’m asking him, ‘You remember all this?’ Even after they arrested the suspect, the officers met, and they were all so calm,” Ullman said. “You don’t see this stuff on TV.”
Many departments across the nation host Citizen’s Academy programs, during which representatives of different units speak to the students, offer role-playing scenarios and even teach them basic firearms safety training. Beverly Hills is unique in that it offers year-round programs for an ever-expanding list of interested participants. More than 87 people applied for the upcoming season, and Newman said he foresees offering two concurrent programs in the near future.
“When we created this program in 2015 the idea was to bridge the gap, to show how officers are normal human beings and to help people understand why we take certain actions and don’t take others,” said Field Training Officer Jeff Newman, who runs the program. “I’ve had people go through this program who come up after and say, ‘My entire perspective has changed.’”
Real estate professionals, film industry professionals, physicians, attorneys and retired residents have gone through the program to learn about the skills and training required to serve and protect Beverly Hills. The Citizen’s Police Academy is open to anyone 21 or over who passes a limited background check and can commit to attending all 10 weeks of the weekly evening classes.
“We try to get a good cross section of people, not just those who are 100% supporters of the department,” he said. “We try to show them realities and dispel the myths.”
Ullman said the program has given him a more nuanced view of law enforcement than what he got from just watching the news or movies and TV. He has a better understanding of police action and the intense amount of training that goes into law enforcement – and a more secure affirmation that he would never have wanted to go into this line of work.
“I could never see myself dealing with what these guys do. I’m not one to go into a dangerous situation, I’m one to go out,” he said. “Just understanding the mindset and the knowledge that they have to have – my hat is off to these guys. I have had such a positive experience, and I would recommend this program to anybody.”
For more information about the Beverly Hills Citizen’s Police Academy, check out www.beverlyhills.org/cpa