By Jacob Mathias
This week was my final class of the Portage County Emergency Citizens’ Academy before graduation.
I’m excited to have my Thursday nights back, but I’m honestly going to miss it. I’ve learned so much, met wonderful people and done things I never thought I would.
As I said back in my first column, the one thing that will always stick with me is the passion the men and women of your emergency services have for their community and jobs. The officers, deputies, firefighters and paramedics who taught our class all did it on their own time for no money — thank you to everyone who taught our class.
I’ve learned and experienced so much over the past few months and I’m not sure where to begin.
The most eye-opening and informative classes involved learning about force science and deadly force. It’s so easy to judge police officers’ actions in the videos on social media and immediately judge them as excessive. I’ve done it myself.
Learning just a little of how the human body reacts in times of high stress – and just what officers have to respond to quickly — changes one’s perspective when watching viral videos of force.
The class isn’t all serious though; most were a lot of fun. Pulling on full turn-out gear and putting out actual car fires is something I’ll always remember. Walking up to a blaze with a fire hose and a halligan is a truly exhilarating experience.
Emergency vehicle operations will also live fondly in my memory. Getting behind the wheel of a squad car and enacting a chase felt like being in the movies. On the other hand, I hit almost every cone on the course when it was my turn to drive a fire truck, so perhaps I’ll edit some of those memories out.
One of the classes hurt like hell. Our penultimate class had us learning about various modes of force officers can utilize. For some reason, when given the opportunity to voluntarily expose myself to a taser, I jumped with enthusiasm. It wasn’t fun, and I’ll never [intentionally] do it again, but I’m glad I did it. The great thing about the Citizens’ Academy is the opportunity to try things very few get the chance.
This class taught me a lot, but it mostly taught me to be grateful. I’ve come to the realization that I could never do any of the jobs these men and women do every day and which we take for granted.
Their jobs are hard, and in a lot of cases thankless: try to remember that.
I consider it a privilege I was admitted to the class, and encourage anyone has been following this column to take advantage of the Citizen’s Academy next time it rolls around.
Stay tuned to the spcitytimes.com or the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office website for dates of the next class.