You’re a police officer.
You’ve been briefed that businesses have been victims of copper wire theft, and you know there has been an increase in this crime around town.
This problem must be solved, but, how do you solve it?
Park a patrol car in the area?
Install a GPS unit on the wire and track it?
Place beehives near in the area the crimes are being committed?
These were some of the answers given by students of Tustin PD’s Citizen’s Academy at the Tustin Branch Library on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
The academy is a 16-week program that gives members of the public an opportunity to learn a wide variety of police procedures, tactics, and responsibilities. Students are encouraged to exchange dialogue with Tustin officers in an educational setting.
The course covers a variety of different aspects of law enforcement including crime scene investigation, SWAT procedures, weaponless defense and more.
After fielding several suggestions on how to solve the copper wire theft crime, Officer Matt Roque, a member of the Special Enforcement Team, shared how Tustin PD handled the issue.
“We placed undercover surveillance vehicles in the area and also set up cameras with the help of local businesses,” he said. “We watched the crime occurring and began to identify a pattern.
“As a follow-up, we went to recycling centers in the area and showed photos of offenders … and made a couple arrests from that.”
The 20 students also learned about the history and evolution of the Special Enforcement Team, along with several tools they use to gain entry into buildings.
The class was able to get up close and personal with a solid single person entry tool and a “break-and-rake,” which is designed to go through windows and scrape out any excess glass.
A patrol bike the team uses was also on display.
“These bikes are excellent at sneaking around apartment complexes if we get a call about a crime committed in the area,” said Officer Andrew Gleason.
Another topic of discussion was police use of force and levels of escalation that dictate what an officer can and cannot do to contain a dangerous situation.
Sgt. Luis Garcia, supervisor of Tustin’s Gang Unit, told many stories about his experiences in law enforcement and use of force over the last 20 years.
He said there is a lot that comes into play when an officer has less than a second to react to a situation that is potentially life-threatening.
“There are a few factors that only you can control in a dangerous situation,” he said. “Your mindset, how you go into the situation, your physical fitness and your formal training.”
“If a suspect comes at us and wants to fight, it’s our job to end the fight and stop the threat from potentially affecting innocent people.”
He taught about the history of how use of force has evolved over the years and showed videos of police using force to detain a suspect.
“I don’t show these videos to change your opinion,” he said. “I show them to ask whether it was reasonable. Was the use of force reasonable for that specific action?”
Garcia challenged the students to watch similar videos to better learn about the types of scenarios police face and how officers respond them.
“Watch their cues and movements,” he said. “What would you do in that situation?”
In just a few hours, students were granted a better understanding of use of force and attempted to solve several issues that actually affect the city.
After entering into the citizen’s academy, some students said they realized tough choices have to be made and the answer isn’t always black-and-white.
“I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve learned during these classes so far,” said Camielle Seals, a 5-year resident of Tustin. “It really puts things into perspective.
“The things these officers have to take into consideration and react to in such a short period of time is amazing. It isn’t like the stuff you see on T.V.”
Individuals who may be interested in joining the 2016 program can fill out an application at http://www.tustinpd.org/CommunityPolicing/CitizenAcademy.htm or contact Community Relations Officer George Vallevieni at 714-573-3272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants must meet several requirements:
- Minimum age of 21 years.
- Live, Work in Tustin, or surrounding areas.
- No prior felony convictions.
- No misdemeanor arrests within one year of application.