HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WDTN) — The Huber Heights Police Division partnered with the Miami Valley Crime Prevention Association for a Crime Prevention Academy.
The academy was a free four-week course offered to community members.
People learned statistics, how to design their homes to prevent crime, and what to do in a dangerous event or active shooter situation; but it was the “shoot, don’t shoot” scenarios that people said were the most eye-opening.
Fifteen people of different backgrounds took the course.
“This class is pretty unique. We have a mother and a daughter going through the class together. We also have a husband and wife,” describes Officer Nick Lambert, the Public Affairs Officer for the Huber Heights Police Division, who was helping teach the class. “We also have someone in there with a service dog.”
This was the division’s first Crime Prevention Academy, and one of the most valuable lessons during the four-week course took place outside of the classroom setting.
“They learn that police officers have to make decisions in a millisecond,” states Officer Lambert.
Sergeant at Arms Mark Brown with Miami Valley Crime Prevention Association helped with role play.
“A lot of people refer to it as a ‘shoot don’t shoot,’ but what I like to refer to it as ‘multiple objective training,'” states Brown. “Because not every scenario involves shooting. But it’s to try to get people to understand how fast and how fluid situations are.”
Getting a feel for what it’s like behind the badge, community members traded places with officers. They were given a gun with blanks and were put in different scenarios.
“They had me walk up to a suspicious vehicle, ask questions, and figure out why they were there,” Huber Heights resident Shelly Carr describes her scenario.
Bev Brandenburg was put in a similar situation.
“I did a traffic stop and they had a gun that they just bought at a gun show,” describes Brandenburg who lives in Huber Heights and is a retired school bus driver.
The course makes the situations as real as possible and sometimes intense.
“It would be so scary to be an officer put in that situation. You just don’t know how you would react,” admits Teresa Marling who’s part of the Huber Heights Citizens Patrol.
The situations are meant to be both educational and eye-opening.
“It’s that adrenaline. It’s putting safety first of that person, of yourself, and that’s what I did,” says Huber Heights resident Madison Johnston, who made the decision to pull the trigger in her scenario.
Others were more hesitant in their actions and held back.
“I approached the scenario as a do-no-harm, and I see how that’s not exactly the right way of thinking 100% in terms of safety for everyone,” admits Jenni Lough Watson who works in Huber Heights and brought the service dogs that she trains.
Some tried to de-escalate the situation with verbal commands.
“I was trying to talk down the one guy who had a gun to his head, and I got shot,” says Carr. “So, I’m glad I’m here.”
The hands-on training helps law enforcement to engage the community and creates a dialogue with citizens.
“There’s really not a one-size fits all playbook for this,” states Brown. “There isn’t necessarily an XYZ, right or wrong answer sometimes. We’re trying to get people to understand there’s a lot of different ways you can handle things and situations, and a lot of things you have to keep an eye on.”
Many who took the class walked away with a new perspective.
“I don’t know what I don’t know, and I think that’s why I wanted to put myself through the scenario,” says Lough Watson.
“I’ve always had the utmost respect, but now I have even more,” states Brandenburg.
Huber Heights Police say they’re looking to hold the academy a couple times a year.