Fourteen students from Joe Waller’s Administration of Justice ROP program were exposed to the simulated dangers police officers face daily in an exercise searching for armed suspects in the freshman field house on the Manteca High athletic field.
School resource police officers Eva Steele and April Smith coordinated the Tuesday morning action that involved four students per team. Team members did not know how many suspects – if any – they would face in the building and in its restrooms.
The final exercise of the morning was led by East Union senior Jennifer Ketner who intends to become a police officer. Ketner said she will first get two years of college at Delta before joining the Army and becoming a military police officer. After the Army she hopes to work as either a city or county law enforcement position.
Ketner was the only girl in her team that she led with a definite professionalism as she ordered the suspects to respond to her commands. After the first suspect was brought out of hiding in a closet, he was ordered to the ground face down and Bobby Guillory – also of East Union – handcuffed him.
A second female suspect was found hiding in a bathroom by Guillory. She was ordered at gunpoint to exit the room and lie face down on the floor while she, too, was handcuffed and led outside by the “officers” where they were released. The team members all voiced interest in becoming police officers.
The two women police officers assigned to the exercise followed the students through their search and evaluated their every move making sure they learned from their experience. Officer Smith was quick to point out errors in the use of their firearms noting when they were creating a crossfire situation that could get an officer killed either by the suspect or by a fellow officer if he needed to shoot.
The officers noted that in the actual day-to-day police work they place high importance on getting to know how their partner would react in a given situation so they can better work together to protect each other and the public.
Smith recalled when she and Steele were doing a home search where they were looking for a female suspect. It appeared no one was home until Steele poked into a pile of clothes in the closet with her baton. That triggered a woman jumping out from under the clothes ready to take them both on with hands and feet.
Smith said she found herself in quite a fight with the woman right there in the closet. “You never know,” she added. You have to be prepared.
It was definitely seen as a learning experience by the class members from the two high schools.
The remainder of the class waited outside the building where the group was called into ranks by Waller before they were dismissed.
The afternoon exercises into the building search involved Sierra and Lathrop high school students, Waller said.