About 25 members of the Harker Heights Police Department Citizens Police Academy got a taste of what officers go through when they make traffic stops at a field training exercise held March 26.

Stu McLennan, 57, found that officers never know what they’re going to face when they approach a vehicle they’ve pulled over.

“We were just stopping someone for a taillight that was out,” McLennan said. “But then the driver showed a pistol so we took cover, and we had them throw the weapons out.”

The exercise allowed McLennan and others to demonstrate skills they’ve learned in the past few weeks as members of the 14th Citizens Police Academy. Most classes involve lessons on state law and the Texas Penal Code, but students got behind the wheel of a real police vehicle for the training exercise.

Community Services Officer Dave Haley informed students about the seven steps of conducting a traffic stop, from greeting the drivers to issuing warnings or citations to checking license plates and backing away from the vehicle. He said the academy is designed to enhance safety and reduce crime throughout the city.

“I’m not only trying to show them what it’s like to be a police officer, but I’m also getting feedback on what’s going on in their neighborhood and telling them to report it,” Haley said.

Former academy graduate John Synder, 69, helped with the exercise by playing the role of offender in mock traffic stops.

“They stop us and we mess with them as they play cops and give them a feel of what it’s like,” he said.

Most participants learned that the job of a police officer isn’t easy.

“I have more respect for an officer that does a traffic stop because they put their life on the line every time they get in the car,” said Peggy McDonald, 53.

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