Citizens’ Academy teaches police philosophy
As the discussion shifted between ethics and anecdotes, 20 Truckee residents were glued to three police officers speeches for three hours like a teenager watching MTV’s “The Real World.”
Most residents are seeking an inside peek at the young Truckee Police Department and the 10-week Citizen’s Academy, which kicked off Tuesday, will hopefully fulfill that desire.
Detective Dan Johnston, Cmdr. Scott Berry and Chief Dan Boon spoke about their experiences as police officers, all with more than 20 years experience, about the department’s philosophy, and how officers make decisions.
“Police work is not black and white,” Boon said. “There’s a lot of gray area because you’re dealing with people.”
And only about 5 percent of a Truckee officer’s job is to get the bad guy, Berry said.
“I love this statement, ‘The police are the public and the public are the police,'” he said, emphasizing the department’s commitment to community policing.
The other 95 percent of their jobs, Berry said, is responding to calls that other departments probably wouldn’t handle, doing community outreach, and helping crime and accident victims.
But Berry also admitted that it feels good to get the bad guy when it needs to be done.
“It’s fun,” he said. “If they need to go to jail, I’m right there to take them to jail.”
Chief Boon spoke primarily about ethics, using his own experiences as examples of situations where separating “right” from “wrong” could save an officers career or get him fired.
“We have a saying in law enforcement, ‘You lie, you die,” Boon said. “(If you lie) you may as well leave the profession because you’re useless.”
“If things go wrong in the police department, I’m looking for a job the next day,” Boon said, speaking of the power the public has over the department.
Boon said honesty is one of the most important traits of an officer. He told a story about a man who applied to be an officer when Boon was working in Auburn. The applicant didn’t state on his application that he had stolen beer and chips from a grocery store when he was 17 years old, and ended up not getting the job.
Although Boon said the department probably would have overlooked something that happened so long ago, the Auburn Police Department didn’t hire him because of the omission.
“That’s the kind of dilemma we face,” Boon said, emphasizing that failing to do the right thing can turn into a “black mark” on the profession.
All the officers also wanted to make clear that they’re not the enemy, they want to help make Truckee a safe place.
“It’s a lot more fun to be liked and trusted than to be feared,” Berry said.