About five years ago, I had a friend who raved about her participation in the Jacksonville, Texas, Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy.

When I was working for the Henderson, Texas, newspaper, a police lieutenant noticed I’d come in for the daily police reports and handed me a form to their citizens police academy.

I was disappointed to learn the class times conflicted with nights I had to cover council meetings.

After I moved to Killeen, a co-worker spoke about how she enjoyed participation in the Killeen Citizens Police Academy.

After I received a news release in January 2015 about Harker Heights’ Citizens Police Academy, I applied.

Apparently the classes are popular, because I didn’t receive a call about being accepted to participate until January this year.

Because of primary election night and being sent to cover a few Killeen City Council meetings in the past month, I couldn’t attend every class, but based on the ones I attended, I’d recommend them to any Harker Heights resident.

Though I’ve spent the past six years or so looking at police reports and affidavits or learning about the legalities about how police serve, there were still things I learned during the Harker Heights Citizens Police Academy.

Not only do the classes explain what officers can and can’t do in accordance of the law, but “cool” is the only word to describe playing with fingerprinting powder or driving a police car to simulate a traffic stop. (I think the police car is an older model for training).

I’m a bit disappointed I missed the tours of the Bell County Jail and Communication Center, but my real motive for wanting to participate in the class were the ride-alongs.

In Henderson, the Rusk County Sheriff’s Department allowed me to go on a couple that included suspected drug distribution raid at a home next door to the sheriff and a sex offender compliance check.

My ride-alongs in Harker Heights were more mellow. I’d probably recommend not choosing two 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday shifts.

However, both officers I rode with were polite and professional — even when one resident was scared to go outside because he wasn’t sure if it was a woman or a cat screaming.

It was a cat.

If anything was gained from that shift, it’s the knowledge of previously unknown city roads and that officers routinely make rounds of all neighborhoods, parks and businesses when not responding to a call — no matter how repetitive it may be.

A few weeks ago, the Citizens Police Academy participants were able to watch a Harker Heights Police Department SWAT team training exercise at Harker Heights High School.

Coincidentally, the SWAT team responded to a real call a few days later.

On April 10, they were sent to a call in the 400 block of Brittney Way Drive regarding shots being fired in a residence. Neighbors told officers they thought children were inside.

SWAT officers were able to take a male suspect into custody without injury.

The fact that the suspect, victims and all officers got out of the situation with no injuries, I think, attests to the training of the Harker Heights Police Department.

For residents who want to learn more about the department — or even those who think they don’t like or agree with police and question why they do what they do or don’t do — I encourage you to contact the department’s community service division to find out when the next Citizens Police Academy classes are.

Rachael Riley covers Harker Heights and Nolanville. Contact her at rriley@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7553

Contact Rachael Riley at rriley@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7553

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