Oyyy, Kari is STILL on deadline! Seriously....be careful what you wish for, folks! However, this blog post by Fran is as fabulous as anything I could have come up with. So once again, enjoy folks!!
I’m Gonna Hafta Censor Myself
Last May I graduated, along with fourteen other people, from the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy. It was a very big deal, with a color guard, speeches by the Police Chief and an Assistant Chief, a certificate ceremony, and—here’s where the problem comes in—a speech from a “class representative.” Guess who’d been elected to do that role?
Halfway through the nine-week course (two nights a week from 6:00 to 9:00), we were told that we’d need to choose someone to speak for the group. I got roped into it. They figured I was a writer, so I could write a speech. And I agreed to do it. Me and my big mouth.
Each of the seventeen classes featured a particular aspect of police work. Terrorism, Vehicle Pullovers, DUI, Crash Investigation, Homicide, K9, Explosives, SWAT, Crime Scene, and so on. One evening, as we waited to get into the 911 Communications Center for a tour, we decided that the speech ought to roast each and every one of our instructors, and we started throwing out one-liners about funny things that happened in each class. I took notes, took it all home, and started inventing a framework for the speech.
The Public Information Officer who taught our third session had told us that he constantly had to vigilant to be sure that what he said or wrote couldn’t be twisted by the people he communicated with. I should have listened harder to his advice.
I gleefully pulled together a funny speech about why there were only fifteen surviving members of the class, when we had started out with “forty-seven” people. Then I proceeded to regale the crowd with tales of blackmailing the officer who did our background checks, making bombs during the explosives class, running down various class members as we practiced vehicle pullovers.
One by one, as I mentioned each class, I told how we lost one member this Tuesday, five members that Thursday, three the next week. In the class on Crime Prevention, for instance, the instructor truly did tell us that if everyone would trim their tree branches up to seven feet and their shrubbery down to three feet, it would make it much harder for a burglar to hide. So I wrote in my speech that the officer had handed out chain saws so we could practice this new skill, but it was too much for one woman, and she never returned to class. We did understand, however, that the hospital had managed to sew her arm back on without too much trouble.
When it came to describing the Firearms Class, I said that because of budget restrictions, there weren’t any paper targets, so they lined us all up instead. Luckily the corporal couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, so we were perfectly safe, but five members took off running and haven’t been heard from since. The only reason I felt I could say such drivel was that the corporal who demonstrated the firearms training was an expert marksman, a fact well-known by everyone attending the graduation.
You’d think that with such whacky examples, the reporter who covered the event would have disbelieved every statement I made. But no, he wrote—I read it in the newspaper as I ate breakfast the next morning—that the newly graduated class had started with 47 members, but only 15 graduated, clearly implying that it was a difficult course indeed. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” he said.
I’m afraid my silly exaggeration about how the Citizens Police Academy killed, maimed, or scared off thirty-two people, turned into a public disservice. The truth was, the class was a total joy. There were, naturally, some difficult topics and some gruesome videos, but those of us who went through this training now have a clear idea of what police officers contend with every single day. The instructors were all more than willing to answer every single question we had—and we asked a lot of questions. All fifteen of us who were at the first class graduated together and most of us went on to rain for the Search and Rescue Team.
If you have a chance to sign up for a Citizen Police Academy or Fire Academy, I’d urge you to do so. The information is valuable indeed. As Debra Ivey, one of the class members, said (and this part the reporter did get right) “I thought it would scare me more, that I’d be afraid to leave my house because of all the gory stuff we saw. But I feel safer because of all the things I know go on behind the scenes.”
And what on earth does this have to do with writing? Well, aside from the obvious—I write mysteries in which my main character is married to the town cop, so I did sign up for the Citizens Police Academy hoping to use some of the information in my books, and if you take a citizens training class, you also might glean some worthwhile material for your books, essays, stories, or even poems.
But I came out of the experience with so much more than I expected. I now know how to use a chain saw, how to act like a paper target, and how I need to WATCH MY WORDS when there’s a reporter around.
Fran writes her Biscuit McKee mystery series (starring Biscuit, a librarian, and Marmalade, the library cat) at her home beside a creek on the backside of Hog Mountain, Georgia. She shares that home with various rescued cats and donates a portion of all her book sales to the humane society and to libraries.
Fran was recently appointed to the position of Publications Chair for the National League of American Pen Women. Her latest book, FROM THE TIP OF MY PEN: A WORKBOOK FOR WRITERS, from which this blog entry was taken, is now available through her website http://www.franstewart.com