Both anxiety and excitement filled the classroom as the students took their seats. They were not worried about a regular assignment or exam. Their lesson plan for the day included being shocked by a stun gun.
The San Marcos Citizen Police Academy is a 13-week course held twice a year. It is designed to help residents gain a better understanding of the mission and operations of the local police. The course gives students a look into the day-to-day activities of the San Marcos Police Department.
The course, which is taught by local officers, consists of one three-hour session per week. The class met Sept. 18, the third session so far.
Rebecca Chaney, criminal justice sophomore, said students were taught about the background of SMPD during the first class. The second class consisted of a narcotics lesson in which they learned about issues surrounding drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine.
Paul Stephens, SMPD community services liaison, said about 40 students participated last year. That number ended up being too high so the course was capped to about 20 students this year.
San Marcos resident Cody Trammell said he signed up for the Citizen Police Academy because he wanted to get to know the police officers in town. He was excited for the Sept. 18 class, because the officers were going to demonstrate how police use pressure points and different forms of force and restraint.
“You get to see what (police officers) do, how they do it and how fast they can do it without literally hurting a person and sending them to the hospital,” Trammell said.
The Sept. 18 class consisted of a variety of people, from Texas State criminal justice majors to San Marcos residents. Chaney said she and her classmates in attendance found out about the Citizen Police Academy through Warren Zerr, assistant police chief and lecturer at Texas State.
“After college I want to go home to Fort Bend County and be an officer there. I figured, ‘Why not take the Citizen Police Academy course to get the experience?’” Chaney said.
Students could volunteer to be shocked with a stun gun at the end of the meeting. One by one the volunteers filed to the front of the room, sat down in a chair and were stunned.. Volunteers could choose how many seconds they wanted to be stunned for—most requested that it only last for one to two seconds.
Joyce Kowalczyk, 66-year-old, said she decided to participate in the course because her husband graduated from the Citizen Police Academy last year.
“I went to the graduation, and I heard all the comments (my husband was receiving) and said, ‘I want to do that too. I want to be a police academy citizen,’” Kowalczyk said.
Stephens said there is a graduation ceremony held for students who complete the course. Citizen Police Academy graduates receive a certificate and a special plaque.
“We make it look like a police training plaque like (police offers) would get, so (graduates) can hang it on the wall and be proud of it,” Stephens said.
Stephens said this is his fourth year participating in the Citizen Police Academy. Once someone graduates from the course they become a part of the Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association.
Members of the association are able to do volunteer work alongside SMPD in the future, Stephens said. This includes activities like helping at the Outlet Mall on tax-free weekend and directing traffic during parades.
Police Sgt. Erin Clewell said the Citizen Police Academy has been a success.
“We get good reactions out of it,” Clewell said. “So, I guess we will carry (the course) on as long as we can.”