Thursday, February 6, 2014
They didn’t become police officers, but the 18 men and women who participated in the Goose Creek Citizens Police Academy have a better understanding of local law enforcement.
On the final day of class, the 18 participants were given a certificate of attendance for completing the course. Each attendee shook hands with Chief Harvey Becker, Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler and the class’s main coordinator Capt. David Aarons in a small ceremony at City Hall’s council chambers.
“Our objective wasn’t to train you or make you police officers, but to show you why we do what we do,” Becker said. “If you know that you’ll trust us more. We want you to trust us.
“Tonight we’re graduating 18 new and improved ambassadors for the Goose Creek Police Department. The police department needs you so we can do our job more effectively.”
Becker said if the graduates are at a coffee shop and someone badmouths police, these citizens can stand up for the officers.
“It’s easy to pick on the cops,” Becker said. “We need the citizens to back us up. The more you back us up, the more you trust us, the more effective we are.”
“I believe we have the greatest group of guys in this police department,” academy participant Barbara Wiberg said. “Everyone’s been really nice and friendly.”
Her husband Daniel Wiberg added that he pays attention to what goes on across the country with officers sometimes doing their jobs all wrong, but said he does not see any of that in Goose Creek.
“The more I see South Carolina, it’s one of the best states in the country with citizens rights,” Mr. Wiberg said.
“I didn’t really have any impression of the police department,” academy participant Jim Fields said. “Over the last eight weeks I’ve talked to some of the nicest patrol officers.”
Hal Cantrill said he was in a citizens police academy eight years ago in a different city and what stood out both times was the professionalism he witnessed.
“You can’t ask for better people,” Shauna King said, adding that she was impressed by the level of work it takes to remain a police officer. “You work as a unit.”
“We’re humans,” Becker said. “We do make mistakes. We’re not saints. It’s unreasonable to expect that.”
“To see it on a local level is awesome,” Richard Simon said. “I had a ride along with Officer Ambroziak. He’s very professional. This course has been fascinating. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it.”
“What’s inside – that’s what I saw in (Chief) Harvey (Becker) when he got here when he was 23,” Heitzler said. “You’ve got to have the heart. That’s why he’s the chief today.
“I learned a lot from just listening to you. We depend on voluntary compliance. Ninety-nine percent of people in Goose Creek are compliant with the law.”
Heitzler said our nation was formed from violence during the American Revolutionary War.
“They marched right behind city hall,” Heitzler said. “The greatest damage was the animosity people held for each other.”
Heitzler said the country’s forefathers saw the need for a constitution that allows for armed citizens and a militia.
“You have weapons to defend yourself from overreaching government,” Heitzler said. “My job as the mayor – they don’t have a ‘How to be Mayor for Dummies’ book – my job is to preserve the past, protect the present and protect the future.
“To keep it safe and make sure the citizens feel they are served honestly.”
Heitzler said the training program Becker talked about is a culture of love. “We have a trusted citizenry,” Heitzler said. “You can see that every day.”
He added that in Nikita Khrushchev’s memoir he writes he was surprised on his visit to the United Nations when he banged his shoe on the table that there weren’t armed guards at every corner in New York City. Heitzler said in Russia there were guards at every corner because the government could not trust its citizens.