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AYER — It wasn’t your average graduation. The students ranged in age and gender, from young adults to older citizens. There was no test at the end or even a diploma. The group simply gained knowledge and insight.

Sixteen residents of Ayer graduated from the 11th Ayer Police Citizen’s Academy Class.

“Reflecting back over the past 12 weeks, you had the opportunity to see things most citizens don’t have the opportunity to experience,” Sgt. John MacDonald told the 14 students and their families. “Through weekly meetings you learned about constitutional law, criminal law and motor vehicle law.”

The class had originally started with 22 residents, but only 16 stuck it out for the full class; two were out of town for the ceremony.

“I want to thank you for your commitment over the past 12 weeks to participate in the program,” MacDonald said. “I know for some of you it meant an evening away from your families.”

One of the more popular portions of the class was when two volunteer drinkers consumed alcoholic beverages for the Operating Under the Influence (OUI) demonstration.

During the demonstration, the volunteers failed field sobriety and breathalyzer tests, but told the officers and class they thought they would still be OK to drive.

The students observed an assault and battery trial at Ayer District Court, became certified in CPR through the Fire Department, sat through a firearms demonstration where Sgt. Michael Edmonds taught a course in safe handling firearms and the students were then permitted to shoot at the range.

“I’m sure some of your graded targets are proudly displayed on your refrigerators at home next to your kids art and school work,” MacDonald said with a laugh.

The forensics demonstration with Detective Brian Gill was also popular with the students.

“You learned that most crimes are not solved within one hour, as seen on TV,” MacDonald said. “Building a solid case takes skill, patience and time.”

For Kerry Bremer, going on a ride-a-long with MacDonald was the highlight of the course for her.

“We went out on calls for vandalism, to issue a warrant and a drunk and disorderly at the hospital,” she said. “It was all so exciting.”

Bremer said what she appreciated the most was observing how MacDonald treated the people he was dealing with, with respect.

“It was nice to see,” she said. “There was no judging involved. He just treated them as people that needed help.”

The class had a different affect on Rick Stokes — he’s actually thinking about attending the real police academy.

“I’ve always been interested in law enforcement but I never grabbed an opportunity to get involved,” he said. “This gave me the opportunity to learn more about it.

“I’m sad it’s ended. It was a very good learning experience. It helped us learn what a police officer has to go through. I’m thinking about finding out about going to the academy. When I was younger, I never thought I had the mentality but now that I’m older and I took this class, well, it brought the desire back.”

Bremer and Stokes attended the class for the first time, but when Michael Bradley enrolled, it was his second go-around.

“I have a lot of fun,” Bradley said. “Each year it gets better and better.”

Bradley didn’t just have the opportunity to learn from the Ayer Police Department; he also had the role of playing the bad guy.

“First, I was arrested and got to play with a rubber gun,” he explained. “Then I had the opportunity to help (MacDonald) with the training during a lock-down drill at the (Middle-High School).”

Bradley played a “bad guy” at the school, where he entered the school with a rubber gun and the Police Department had to find him.

“It was great,” he said. “I got to run around the school banging on doors asking people to let me in.”

One of the events the class has yet to complete is a tour of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

“There was an incident inside the prison and our tour had to be rescheduled,” MacDonald said. “Presently the prison is in lock-down due to a violent incident occurring there earlier in the week. Who thought it would be so hard to get into prison?”

Police Chief William Murray said the department has received funding to continue offering the classes and urges residents of Ayer to keep their eye open for the next class.

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