Holding the .40 caliber Glock for the first time last Tuesday, Inez Couch’s small hands shook as she aimed and pulled the trigger.
“I was so nervous. Hearing all the guns at the firing range was pretty scary and intimidating,” said Couch, a participant in the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Citizen Law Enforcement Academy.
Now in its ninth year, the academy, which is intended to give citizens an inside look at how local law enforcement operates, now offers the opportunity for participants to dig deeper into the field with several new hands-on components, like firearm safety and crime scene investigations.
“Guns can be very intimidating to someone who has never been around one,” said academy director Lt. Tony Wooten, who added firearms training to the curriculum this year at the urging of former participants.
“I’ve had so many women tell me they want to have the knowledge to fire a gun if their life depended on it,” Wooten said.
Couch, who signed up for the class with her husband, Bob, said she was one of those women. “I’ve always had such a terror of guns, really afraid. Being at the firing range with a trained officer who has the knowledge of firearms hopefully has helped me conquer the fear,” she said.
Catherine Pichon, whose husband Gary recently bought her a small revolver, said she had fired the gun once prior to going to the firing range last week.
Working with Lt. Col. Greg Rowan, who showed her how to stand and helped her find the correct grip and learn to aim, Pichon said she is now confident that if she ever needed to use her gun, she could.
“I was so excited, I actually hit the target with a cluster of about eight to 10 shots,” she said.
Pichon, a volunteer with the county’s Community Emergency Response Team, signed up for the eight-week course after catching the “law enforcement bug” early last year when she participated in the search for missing hiker Meredith Emerson.
“It was a whole different experience seeing the criminal side of search and rescue,” she said. “Everything is so different on TV, but this is real.”
This year’s academy is also taking a more hands-on approach by also offering a mock crime scene investigation, in which participants learn techniques and then travel to a staged crime scene to solve a crime.
Wayne Watkins, who also volunteers with CERT, said the information he has learned in the academy has been enlightening. “It’s such a great source of info,” he said, adding he’s looking forward to Maj. John Cagle, head of Dawson County’s criminal investigations division, leading next week’s class.
“John Cagle was so involved in the Meredith Emerson case when he was with GBI. He has such a passion for that case, and I hope he’ll talk a little about that when he discusses how he’s handling CID here now,” Watkins said.
The academy, which also includes an insider’s look at the K-9 unit, emergency communications, detention and the special response team, as well as an opportunity to ride along with a patrol officer, runs through March.
For more information on the program or to have your name placed on a waiting list for the next academy, call Wooten at (706) 344-3535.