EAGAN, Minn. (KMSP) - For the last 21 years, Eagan police have offered a citizen's academy to give its residents a hands on look on what it’s like to be an officer.
While many community members call it an eye opening experience, Eagan police also take several steps to keep them safe during "shoot/don't shoot" scenarios.
"That is getting people to feel what it’s like to have to make a decision in a tense, rapidly evolving situation and they have to make a decision and make it quick," Det. Sgt Rich Evans said.
During the use of force segment of the eight week long program, officers use both video simulations and simulated traffic stops in the dark to put community members into officers' shoes and decide whether to shoot someone to stop a threat.
For the video simulations, community members use guns that only shoot lasers at the screen.
While for the night time traffic stops, they use paintball guns that only take smaller paint ball rounds instead of real bullets.
"Everything you see cannot chamber a live round. These are training tools only and when it’s a force-on-force encounter that shows a threat. There are no firearms present," Det. Sgt Evans said.
The only time citizens are exposed to live ammunition is when they go to the shooting range for target practice at the end of the program and then they're under strict supervision.
"These environments are strictly controlled. Our tools are controlled because we don't want accidents to happen," Det. Sgt Evans said.
Many police departments across the metro hold citizens academies at least once a year.
Eagan police say theirs is so popular, it usually fills up the first day applications are accepted.