About a half-dozen Pahrump residents set aside four hours of their time on Saturday, Jan. 11, in an effort to get answers to one simple question.
What is a peace officer?
That topic and related questions were gladly addressed by members of the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, as part of the first multi-course, Citizen Awareness Academy of 2020.
While ensconced in a classroom setting, Lt. Adam Tippetts spoke to the group about the summary of requirements and basic peace officer authority in Nevada.
National program model
Along with Tippetts, Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly also took part in the academy, which she said was patterned after a national program.
“A lot of people really don’t know what a peace officer is and what we are really responsible for and what we are not responsible for,” Wehrly said. “It was going very well in Clark County, and I had some friends who went to the one in Los Angeles. They found it to be very interesting because most people don’t know what cops really do, and this is an overview of what we really do. They have the opportunity to ask questions and learn why we do the things the way we do them.”
Beyond the classroom
It should be noted that participants in the academy are not just sitting in a class for the duration of the academy, Wehrly said.
“This is a 55-hour course and it goes over basically everything that we do, including a firearms class,” she noted. “There is also a firearms familiarization class where they actually go out to the range and see what it’s like to have to participate in firearms qualification. There is also a ride-along that goes along with it.”
During a back-and-forth discussion with the participants, Tippetts spoke about all of the elements involved in performing an arrest, which he explained is the taking of a person into custody in a case and manner authorized by law.
Citizen arrests discouraged
He noted that not just sworn law enforcement officers can make an arrest.
“An arrest may be made by a peace officer or by a private person,” he said. “Any citizen has the right to make an arrest. It’s called a citizen’s arrest and it’s a real thing. I discourage it, unless absolutely necessary because, if you’re wrong, you could potentially be guilty of kidnapping, and you can certainly subject yourself to civil liability. If you detain somebody, and you are wrong about it, then it’s a bad, bad day for you. If you for whatever reason, felt that you had to detain somebody, number one, the circumstances would probably be obvious, where you feel the need to intervene in a particular situation, and number two, you’d better be right.”
Look, listen, pay attention
Moreover, Tippetts offered up a better suggestion to someone who witnesses a crime in progress.
“What we ask for more, is that you be a good witness,” he advised. “If you see a crime being committed, and you believe that person needs to be arrested, report it to us and make mental notes or handwritten notes of everything that you see, including clothing, physical descriptions, what actually took place, the time, the location and things like that.”
Additionally, Tippetts addressed a topic that seems to generate much interest in Nye County and beyond.
That being the issue of possessing a firearm.
“The law says that if we believe that a person we have detained may be armed and a threat to other people, then we can take their weapon from them,” he said. “It gives us the right to search them and pat them down. But again, just like detaining you, it has to be specifically articulated.”
Pahrump resident Linda Grayot said she encouraged several of her friends to join her in this year’s Citizen’s Awareness Academy, after first learning about it several years ago.
“I came in and I was the only one there, so this year I wanted to make sure that we have a good-sized class,” she said. “I’m just trying to guarantee my safety and maintain my security. I will continue to participate in these classes, and I attend every class.”
Melanie Fried, a friend of Grayot said she has also participated in previous academies.
“I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to come back,”she said. “This morning we were educated on the Nye County Sheriff’s Office training. Lieutenant Tippetts was explaining what that entails and it’s very interesting. I have not always had an interest in law enforcement. I’m here because it was a matter of being invited to come and learn more about our sheriff’s office. Understanding what our officers go through helps the public to understand how much we need them.”
Betty Wilson at one time was a correctional officer many years ago.
She attended the academy because she wanted to understand what would-be deputies go through to become bona-fide sheriff’s deputies.
“It also makes me want to be more comfortable in my community, and I feel better about knowing that they are well-trained and Sheriff Sharon Wehrly has her hand on everything. I will continue to do the entire class, and I’m looking forward to doing it. As a rule, we don’t really learn what kind of education people have to have, the restrictions they are under, and the things that they have to do to become a police officer, and that’s what we have gone through so far this morning. I find it to be very similar to the training to become a correctional officer for the prison.”
Additional attendees sought
Tippetts, meanwhile, said he and Wehrly would like to see more area residents participate in the classes, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We can accommodate at least 25 people and if it got even more popular, we would expand to a bigger room and have them on multiple dates, because we definitely want to see more. It’s 55 hours in total, for a total of 9 weeks.”
Tippetts also said some of those attending the classes, actually offer suggestions on additional topics of discussion.
“A lot of participants ask for topics that would help them be safer and be better community members, so, I have started creating a curriculum on crime prevention through situational awareness, and community design. We will also talk about scams, how citizens should react on traffic stops and how to react if they encounter law enforcement and have a CCW permit or carrying a weapon for any reason, among other topics. Every time we do this it’s a lot of fun and sometimes we get sidetracked because the participants ask questions and it ends up taking a bit longer than what we have scheduled, but it’s always fun.”
Those interested in attending the Citizen Awareness Academy are asked to meet in the Nye County Detention Center lobby, to fill out a brief application.
The detention center is located at 1521 East Siri Lane, off of East Basin Avenue.
For additional information, call 775-751-7014, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at email@example.com, on Twitter: @pvtimes