ONALASKA, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- The Onalaska Citizen Police Academy showed us all the different aspects of an officer's job, and that includes how they train in the event they have to use physical force or their weapon.
We learned how they handle hostile situations and then we got to step in their shoes and try it ourselves.
Defense and Arrest Tactics, known as DAAT, are a series of verbal commands and physical force officers use to get control of a suspect.
"It would be awesome if we just had voluntary compliance on all the laws, but unfortunately that doesn't happen so we have a job to do," said Sgt. Jason Jobe.
The goal is always to use minimal force; something that wasn't always easy for those of us in the Citizen Police Academy to remember.
"I would say the most surprising was the defense and arrest tactics," said Officer Jim Page. "When I put on the red man suit and one of the ladies in here, was very timid to begin with. And after she hit me a couple times, she just went off."
That woman was Amy Gleason, one of the class participants.
"When we were working with the batons I just realized how in control of situations officers have to be," Gleason said. "It was fun for me to do the hitting but that's not fun for them. They're just trying to control a situation."
Officer also carry pepper spray and a taser. An Onalaska Police Reserve officer volunteered to be pepper sprayed so we could see how it impacts a suspect.
"Even though like in the line of duty we don't do a whole lot of shooting of the taser or shooting of the firearms or the other stuff, it's stuff that we have to practice all the time," said Onalaska Police Chief Jeff Trotnic.
Using their weapon is a last resort, but officers constantly train in the event they have to use deadly force.
On the range target practice went well for most of us, but then we were put to the test during what's called a simunition; a simulated hostile situation. We were armed with a hand gun that was modified so it shot soap pellets. The "intruder" was an Onalaska officer.
Here's the scenario: we enter a home where there's an intoxicated intruder. Using what we've learned in class we have to decide what to do.
When I went through the simunition, the intruder complied with my commands at first. But before I realized what was happening, he reached for a gun. I got really flustered and my first shot went in to the dirt. I got a second shot off, but if it had been a real situation, the intruder would have shot me first. Lucky for me, the intruder wasn't firing anything back, it was just a fake gun.
"Our officers are making a lot of life changing decisions on the spur of the moment and on the go and that's just one of the special functions of a police officer," said Chief Trotnic. "It's one of the special functions or traits of a police officer that we do, is we have to make those decisions and not be afraid to make them."
While some of my classmates did better than I did, the simunition drove home just how quickly officers have to assess a situation and react
"I really got an appreciation for what officers do on a daily basis," said Drew Stapleton, one of the class participants. "They have to make split decisions and it has to be the right decision. And that's something you don't realize until you've been through a simulated exercise, just how critical that is."
It solidified a gratitude that grew each week of the Citizen Police Academy.
"I think my big takeaway is that police officers are out in our community to help us," Gleason said.
And Mary Koblitz, an Onalaska High School teacher and class participant agrees.
"I've always had a great deal of respect for the police, but it's grown to such a deep level of respect," Koblitz said.
And I think my classmates and I share an admiration for Onalaska's finest who go above and beyond to protect the community.
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