Tylerites Get Hands-On Peek Into Police Force
By TIM MONZINGO
A group of Tyler's leaders and representatives spent part of Thursday night in police custody.
About 20 members of the Mayor's Citizen Academy got a first-hand demonstration and look into the department's inner workings as Chief Gary Swindle and his officers provided a crash course in how it operates.
"I think it's important to see how much training and involvement goes into special weapons and tactics training," Swindle said.
The group spent more than two hours learning about how the department is administered and the tasks each unit performs.
Essentially, Swindle said, the Mayor's Citizen Academy got in a short time what the department's elite officers take weeks to learn.
After a slide show presentation and videos, the group was briefed on a hostage situation and moved outside to watch members of the department's SWAT team in action.
The pop of a sniper rifle round striking a hostage taker mannequin set a team in motion outside at the Smith County Peace Officers Training Facility off U.S. Highway 69 North. Another thunderous explosion tore a steel door from its hinges and the team, headed by Councilman the Rev. Ralph Caraway burst in, taking shots at a pin-up of another perpetrator.
"This is a way to show what they do," Swindle said of the SWAT team and other units who gave presentations Thursday night. "They're real people just like everybody else, but they're also willing to risk their lives to save other people."
Lt. Rusty Jacks, who heads the SWAT team, said the 19 officers who participate also take part in routine police work such as traffic stops and minor offenses.
"The average job of a police officer is kind of a thankless job," he said to the group. "If you look at incidents where somebody is really in need ... you realize why (the officers) are really here."
During the evening, group members heard from SWAT officers, and the department's bicycle and motorcycle patrol units.
The experience was enlightening for Anna Tumlinson.
Ms. Tumlinson said she had a long-standing interest in police work and the opportunity to see it up close and personal was fascinating to her.
"I think it's really fun. It's really informative," she said. "It's very detail oriented."
In March, members of the group got up close and personal with the Tyler Fire Department. Thursday night's experience meant they had a better understanding of the other civic service organization that spends a significant amount of taxpayer money.
Swindle said the department's budget, which comes from the general fund money, accounts for about a third of the fund. The fire department takes up another significant portion of that money, he said.
"Public safety takes over 40 percent of the general fund monies," he said.
The academy, which began this year, is designed to introduce potential Tyler leaders to the different departments and aspects of how the city operates over an 11-week period.
Swindle said it's a good tool for giving residents a greater appreciation for what goes on behind the scenes.
"If you see it in person, then it demonstrates to our citizens going through the mayor's academy (what is involved)," he said.