Mock trial prepares future cops

Published 6:18 pm Saturday, March 14, 2009

JACKSON — It’s a moment that can either make or break a case.

Testifying in court can be an anxious moment for anyone…even for a police officer. Work to collect the evidence, make the arrest, lodge charges and all the associated paperwork can come down to that one moment.

On Wednesday, police academy cadets from several counties received training for that precise moment during a mock trial held at the historic Northampton County Courthouse.

The 21 cadets are currently taking a 12-hour block of instruction for Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) through Halifax Community College. In May the recruits will take their state exam.

The cadets hailed from all over, including Northampton, Hertford and Gates counties.

“It’s the easiest way to learn,” said Rich Square Police Lt. Kevin Byrd, the instructor for the 12-hour block, about holding the mock trial.

He said the trial was a way for the cadets to garner a real world experience and the vast 151-year-old main courtroom added to that familiarity.

Byrd said each of the recruits fictionalized a scenario as homework the night before the mock trial. Each of the cadets then took to the stand to testify in their scenario.

Joining the cadets in the courtroom to give advice were seasoned lawmen, including Northampton County Sheriff’s Major Bill Wheeler and Rich Square Police Chief Bobo Roye. Both, Byrd said, are also certified instructors.

Assistant 6B District Attorney Kim Gourrier was also on hand to give the cadets a good round of questioning.

“What better person to teach these guys than an assistant D.A.,” said Byrd.

Many of the cadets found the mock trial helpful in preparing them for the work that comes with being an officer.

“It really prepares you for the questions that they (attorneys) ask and how they treat you on the stand,” said Marvie Hilliard from Martin County.

Gerald Morris from Roanoke Rapids agreed.

“Getting prepared for court is one of the most challenging things,” said Morris. “If you can’t articulate the information and get it out it’s not worth anything.”

Gourrier was happy to offer her assistance to the class.

“It’s a good opportunity to work with them, show them were all on the same side—making sure justice is served,” she said.