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In pursuit

NPD Citizen Police Academy students take on patrol vehicles

Editor’s Note: This is one in an occasional series about the Newton Police Department Citizen Police Academy, which spans nine weeks and offers local citizens an opportunity to engage in classroom and hands-on training, 

With one foot on the accelerator and flashing blue lights to the rear, some people may have experienced adrenaline while being pulled over by law enforcement for a traffic violation. Students with the Newton Police Department Citizen Police Academy sat in the driver’s seat of a NPD patrol vehicle Tuesday night and saw what it was like to be on the opposite side of the pursuit.

During the third week of the citizen police academy, the NPD focused on two things — reversing and speed. At Iowa Speedway, NPD officers Keith Pittman and Brian Foster instructed the class on how to maneuver a park and turn course and how to utilize the pivot points in the vehicles.

A maze of bright orange cones awaited the class as they attempted to finish the course while traveling in reverse. In addition, the NPD vehicle only allowed the driver to have two mirrors, both were side mirrors. The lack of a center rear view mirror was especially hard for drivers.

Officers aren’t able to utilize their center rear view mirror due to the back seat having barriers to prevent passengers in the rear from escaping.

“I realized how dependent I am on my back-up camera in my own car,” Tiffany Thomas, a member of the citizen police academy said after she tried the course. “I couldn’t see anything out of the middle mirror and it was hard to judge the distance between the car and the cones.”

Thomas completed the course only hitting one cone, but it didn’t come easy.

“It gave me an opportunity of a challenge to drive a vehicle of that size with just the side mirrors, and often times police officers are doing that at high rates of speed,” Thomas said.

For another participant, Christie Busby, she passed the course with flying colors by not hitting any cones.

“It was nerve-wracking — I drive a truck every day and I kind of knew that pivot point but it’s still so hard to see to judge the vehicle from the cone,” Busby said. “I realized the level of skill you have to have when you’re (police) out there, they have to maneuver around people and debris, they have to have skills.”

The favorable course was the pursuit course when participants jumped into the driver’s seat of the police vehicle. Sgt. Chris Wing explained the importance of communication to dispatch during a vehicle pursuit.

Wing said before the chase gets too in depth, it’s important to let dispatch know, the vehicle’s license plate, location and reason for pursuit. Wing initiated the lights and sirens for every citizen driver as they “pursued” Foster on the racetrack. Foster led participants on a chase around a part of the speedway with sharp turns and circles.

The exercise left participants with the “wow” factor.

“It’s adrenaline pumping, it’s not every day you get to go into a police vehicle and not have many rules,” Skye Herman, of Monroe, said. “My stepdad is a retired police officer and so I have some knowledge about what we’ve been talking about.”

Herman said she has always wanted to be a police officer but when she had children she wanted to be with them instead.

“This is my way to get closer to the guys that are protecting where I live, and a way to see what they do every day,” Herman said.

The Newton Police Department Citizen Police Academy is a nine-week session that runs from Sept. 19 to Nov. 14 to promote a better relationship between the NPD and the community it serves. Participants were chosen through an application process.

Contact Kayla Singletary at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or

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