Three departments join forces in a Citizens' Police Academy, hoping that civilians learn how police see shoot/don't shoot scenarios, crime-scene investigations, and other police work.
by David Compa
Police Officer Steve Dintino, 61, handed a Glock .40-caliber pistol, modified for training in a virtual simulator, to first-time shooter Nancy Griffith and told her that slow, steady pressure on the trigger was the key. Dintino said to remember that when the virtual bad guy jumped up firing at her from a row of seats in a movie theater he was terrorizing, “Your most important shot is your first one because it might be the only one you get.” Griffith is one of nine people in the first-ever Citizens’ Police Academy presented by the East Pikeland Township, West Vincent Township, and Spring City Borough police departments to help residents view police work through a cop’s eyes. Meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday nights through Jan. 17 at the Chester County Technical College High School Brandywine Campus in Downingtown, Citizens’ Police Academy officers cover everything from use of force and SWAT tactics to vehicle stops, constitutional rights, and crime-scene investigations. Griffith and her fellow students spent a recent “shoot/don’t shoot” session firing their carbon dioxide-powered Glocks and rifles at a series of violent bad guys in scenarios projected on a wall. They had fractions of a second to decide when to use deadly force to stop shooting rampages in a theater, a church, an office, a warehouse, and a public park. Dintino, an East Pikeland Township officer who spent the first 33 of his 37 law-enforcement years with the Tredyffrin Police Department, has the military demeanor of a career cop who commanded Southeastern Pennsylvania anti-terrorism SWAT teams in Philadelphia and its four neighboring counties. But he also has the patience to bring inexperienced civilians into a police officer’s mindset. “How many rounds do I shoot?” Griffith asked. “Do I go boop, boop, boop, boop?” She made the sounds she’s heard in movies. Dintino reminded her to focus on that first shot. Officer Daniel Corbo, 37, from the East Pikeland Police Department, who organized the citizens academy with his police chief, Susette Wilson, reinforced Dintino’s instruction. “You’re responsible for every bullet that comes out of your gun,” he said. “If you miss and hit a kid,