Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be a police officer or how you might react to split-second situations that literally could be the difference between life and death?

If your answer is yes, you have the opportunity to participate in the New Albany-Gahanna Citizen Police Academy, a free 10-week course that will take place 7 to 9 p.m. each Wednesday from Jan. 17 to March 14.

For the second year, New Albany and Gahanna police will jointly coordinate their citizens-academy experiences, giving participants from both communities an inside look at values, philosophies and operations. Subject-matter experts will combine classroom instruction and field exercises on:

* OVI enforcement.

* Laws of arrest, search and seizure.

* Firearms training and active-shooter scenarios.

* Crime-scene investigation.

* Emergency dispatching.

* Shoot, don't-shoot judgment scenarios.

* Street-drug identification.

Though you never will be in danger, the program's active-shooter and shoot/don't-shoot scenarios are realistic enough to get your pulse racing.

You also will receive limited firearms training from a police officer and will learn about functions of police operations, including 911 dispatching.

This program helps residents understand the quick thinking necessary to perform as a police officer and helps our officers develop deeper relationships with those they serve -- the kind of relationships that often are critical to solving crimes.

Although New Albany's crime rate is very low, we rely heavily on community tips to solve crimes.

Tips are provided only when there is trust and there is no better way to build trust than by creating avenues of open dialogue between our officers and residents.

Law enforcement is a difficult but very rewarding job. Our officers understand that their authority to maintain order needs to be balanced with a healthy respect to those that they are serving. They know that one bad response can wipe out a lifetime of good work, not only for them but for the other officers with whom they serve.

If you want to participate in the Citizen Police Academy and are at least 18 years old, I encourage you to register online as soon as possible at newalbanyohio.org. No more than 15 New Albany residents will be accepted and registrants need to be committed to attending at least eight of the 10 sessions. If you have difficulty registering online, call the New Albany Police Department at 614-855-1234.

Greg Jones is chief of the New Albany Police Department.