The City of University Place will hold its next Public Safety and Criminal Justice Academy on Tuesdays from Sept. 19 to Oct. 31, 2017. Each three-hour session will help residents, business owners, rental community managers and property owners gain a better understanding of many of the public safety issues in University Place.
Among the presenters will be retired Puyallup Police Department Officer Gary Shilley, who knows a thing or two about how quickly police must react when things go from bad to worse. While conducting a traffic stop in 2006, Shilley was shot in the face by a man who was later sentenced to 44 years in prison for the crime.
Thankfully, Shilley survived the ordeal and was awarded the Washington State Medal of Honor. But even though he has retired from his 25-year career in law enforcement, Shilley is still committed to ensuring that the public understands the challenges facing police officers in their communities.
Shilley will bring with him to his presentation special equipment that enables academy participants to engage in various virtual reality scenarios that police officers often face. Using a special projection screen and disarmed Glock handguns similar to those used by law enforcement, academy students will be invited to re-enact what a police officer responding to events such as a domestic violence call or a traffic stop might encounter.
“The screen is interactive so the people on it talk to the student and the student can respond to them,” Shilley said. “It doesn’t take long to see how things can escalate pretty quickly and how quickly an officer has to make a decision.”
In fact, the exercise is so real-life that some people choose not to participate. The handguns are equipped with lasers that are meant to simulate the firing of a gun with bullets. “It raises the heart rate and can be pretty intimidating for some people,” Shilley said.
At the invitation of U.P. Police Chief Mike Blair, Shilley has made this presentation at several of U.P.’s previous citizens’ academies. “I am really impressed by the level of participation the City of U.P., for being as small as it is, gets in these academies,” Shilley said. Sharing the challenges of policing in the modern world is important, he adds. “These scenarios can change a lot of people’s minds and ideas in a split second about what they thought they knew about police work.”
In addition to Shilley’s presentation, over the course of seven weeks attendees will also learn about law enforcement’s role in the criminal justice system and how residents can help protect themselves, their property and their neighborhoods. Topics include the impact of legalized marijuana and a K9 presentation by Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy John Munson and his sidekick, Hanz.
The Public Safety and Criminal Justice Academy weekly sessions run from 1 to 4 p.m. and are held at the University Place Police Department headquarters in the Civic Building at 3609 Market Place W. Space is limited and previous academies have filled up quickly. Reserve a spot by calling 253.798.3141.