The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Citizen's Police Academy is fun, informative


April 26, 2018

Diana Zimmerman

Undersheriff Gary Howell spoke to a group of about 25 people attending a Citizen's Police Academy last Friday. The academy is eight weeks long, and participants have been learning about the evidence process, patrol procedure, drug enforcement, and more. They've gotten a tour of the jail and dispatch and even watched someone get tased.

An eight week Citizen's Police Academy offered by the Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Office is halfway over, and participants not only seem to be learning a lot about law enforcement, they sound like they are having fun.

Last Friday after a presentation from Washington State Patrol Sergeant Brad Moon on their functions and DUIs, Undersheriff Gary Howell talked about his experience in drug enforcement.

Before Moon left, the two talked about how officers determined sobriety, and what the subject had been using, whether it was alcohol, a drug, or both.

There were moments of levity, like when one participant wondered if an intoxicated boater would have to step out of the boat for a field sobriety test.

Howell has worked undercover narcotics, was on a task force for six years, received DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) training, and works with Dakota, the narcotics dog.

Howell walked around the room with a few samples in hand to allow participants an opportunity to get a glance and a quick whiff of a few drugs, like pure tar heroin and cocaine. No one was allowed to smell the methamphetamines.

He talked about the different ways each drug was used and how it affected users. He talked about his work as a DRE and the procedures they used to determine if a person had been using, whether it was an amphetamine, a narcotic analgesic, stimulants, depressants, PCP, or marijuana.

At one point there was a discussion about how to classify marijuana.

"Can we at least agree that it makes you hungry?" someone finally asked.

Everyone laughed.

Eventually, Howell brought in Dakota, to everyone's delight. The two gave a demonstration of her training, as she located samples he had hidden around the room.

"You get all the nuts and bolts," Cathlamet resident Barry Aiton said during a break. "It's very informative. You get to see behind the scenes, how everything works. The jail, the traffic, the criminal


"One of the dispatchers got tased," Aiton continued. That was amazing. It was so real. It looked quite effective. I was glad it was him and not me. That was the most dramatic thing, but we've learned how they do fingerprints. Everybody got hands on with the fingerprints. It's a really good primer on everything that goes on with police work and what a vital necessity it is in any community. It's a very good program, I'm glad they do it. As you can see, people are coming back every week."


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