Reporter takes aim at Citizen Police Academy firearms demonstration

Rocky River Citizen’s Police Academy Cadette Kathy Folk works on loading a Glock 22 handgun. (West Life photo by Sue Botos)

Rocky River

One of the best parts of my job is getting to do some rather unusual things. I’ve taken a ride on Rocky River’s Marine Patrol boat, traipsed through old buildings searching for hidden historical treasures, climbed around a fire engine and traversed the bowels of the wastewater treatment plant.

Firing a gun was never really at the top of my to-do list, but when given the opportunity by Sgt. George Lichman, coordinator of the Rocky River Citizen Academy, I thought I’d give it a shot. (You had to know that was coming.)

I’ve always been pretty wary of guns. The closest I’ve ever come to a firearm was a squirt gun or zapping a few video game aliens. So as I filed into the Bay Village Police Department’s shooting range with members of the academy class, I couldn’t help but think, “What have I gotten myself into now?” Lichman explained that his home range was not large enough to accommodate the group.

“Did you consider not coming?” one class member asked fellow cadette Gladys Smith. “No, never!” avowed Smith. Most of the members of this second police academy class, plus a few from the inaugural class, turned out for the demonstration, which was not offered the first time around. Among these folks were Abbianne Stefanov and her dad, John, who actually went on to join the auxiliary police unit.

After a few announcements about the upcoming graduation on June 21, Lichman introduced Patrolman Nick Rusinko, RRPD’s firearms specialist. Rusinko gave a no-nonsense overview of two guns used by the department: the Glock 22 handgun and the M4 carbine. “At all times, treat it as if it is loaded. A gun can fire without a magazine,” warned Rusinko. “Always point it downrange and pay close attention. Learn from your mistakes,” he added. Eyeing those of us for whom, judging by our sweaty palms and slightly glazed eyes, this was foreign territory, Rusinko quipped, “I have nine years to go and I want to make sure I get there.”

“How many of you have a CCW?” asked Rusinko. Considering it took me awhile to figure out that this referred to a concealed carry permit, I guessed this didn’t apply to me. About four hands went up. Rusinko asked the experienced marksmen to have patience while he demonstrated the loading and unloading of the two guns, which didn’t look too hard.

A simulator version of the Glock was passed around starting with the veteran shooters who, not surprisingly, were at the front of the line. They took about five seconds in total to load and unload the weapon, which was then passed to the first novice, yours truly.

After I stared slack-jawed and fumbled around a bit, Rusinko patiently went over the right releases for the magazine and the procedure for pulling back the slide to seat the first bullet. “You don’t want to put your hand over the top. You could get your skin caught in there,” he advised.

Thankfully, other rookies seemed to have as much trouble as I did. The larger M4 was actually a bit easier to manipulate once you got used to sort of bracing it against yourself. “The 18-year-old recruits in the military can even use this,” prompted Rusinko, urging us novices to try it again. “If you did this over and over, you could all master this in a few hours,” he assured us.

Although not quite ready to do the full Rambo, we were set for the actual firing. In pairs, the class took turns on the range with both guns, again with the experienced shots going first, the rest of us continuing to practice loading and unloading under Lichman’s watchful eye. Peering through the window of the observation room, we rookies gawked at the flash coming out of the muzzle and the flying shell casings. Colleen Raynewater sounded like a pro already, relating her recent trip to a firing range, and her preference of one gun over the other.

Finally my shooting partner, Gladys Smith, and I emerged. After donning ear protection (my glasses served as an eye shield), I assumed the position with the M4. “Feet shoulder distance apart, and whenever you’re ready,” coached Rusinko. I peered through the sight, noting that those 18-year-olds don’t have to deal with bifocals, and took several shots, actually hitting the target.

The handgun was actually a bit scarier because it was louder and moved upward after firing. Above all, nothing prepares you for the gunpowder smell. Gladys and I emerged to the applause of our fellow classmates.

Probably the scariest part of the presentation was the CAPS simulation, where, attired in vest and duty belt, you were presented with a DVD scenario, and you had to decide whether or not to fire your simulator gun. Some folks got it right; some didn’t.

As a result, do I want to purchase a gun? Not really. However, I have gained a new respect for the weapons and those who use them.

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