Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

A willing target in an entertaining show
Kids Day Out’s felony stop demo fun but serious

by Steve Targo

August 23, 2012

Genoa City Police Sgt. Mike Sireno has been a suspect in a child abduction attempt and in drug-related traffic stops. After not obeying the commands of Bloomfield police officers, he’s been shot with pepper balls and taken into custody.

“A couple of times I’ve had weapons, a couple of times drugs,” Sireno said. “A couple of times, I just wasn’t a nice guy at all.”

It’s part of a role Sireno plays in the mock felony traffic stop Bloomfield police perform annually during Kids Day Out -- the combative subject police usually take down by force. This year’s Kids Day Out is Saturday, and once again, the mock felony stop demo is on the event schedule and considered by many to be a major draw.

Some credit for that should go to Sireno. In previous demos, he has been the guy who leaves a vehicle surrounded by cops, shouting, frantically waiving his arms, visibly upset, the disobedient subject who sometimes spouts gibberish and sometimes tries to run away. One year, he tore open a bag of flour during his escape attempt. The flour represented cocaine.

The intention of Kids Day Out is to encourage parents to complete identification kits for their children, but on Monday, Bloomfield Police Chief Steve Cole — who coordinates and oversees safety measures for the demo — said it provides the public with the chance to see police in action.

“The officers love putting on the show (but) for us, this is business,” Cole said. “This is what we do. We try to make it entertaining, and it’s pretty cool for the kids to see.”

He said they don’t show the public everything, but what they perform is a realistic display of how police execute a high-risk felony stop.

“The scenario that’s going to be used this year is someone has met an underage person on the Internet. … The Internet can be a dangerous place if you don’t know where you’re going, what you’re doing or who you’re talking to,” Cole said.

Each year, the demos are different, but Sireno always gets shot.

“The kinetic energy from a pepper ball gun leaves good-sized welts,” Cole said. “Not everybody is willing to step up in front of that, but (Sireno) has always been my go-to guy for this.”

Sireno said it ties into one of his hobbies.

“They (police officers) know I always play paintball, so they know I’m not worried about getting shot by a paintball or a pepper ball gun,” he said.

Perhaps they also sense his love of acting.

“I’ve done training with Twin Lakes (police) and with the (Walworth County) sheriff’s department,” Sireno said. “Role-playing is kind of fun. You can be creative.”

As much as there’s fun and entertainment behind the mock felony stop, there’s a strong undercurrent of seriousness.

“It gives the public a different perspective — for their safety, what (police) do, how they stand, how they hold their guns,” said Kathy Seeberg, wife of Bloomfield police officer Jim Seeberg and member of the Kids Day Out Committee.

She said although she watches the felony stop demo, “there’s part of me that doesn’t want to.”

“A random call can end up being dangerous,” Seeberg said, adding that it‘s especially concerning in the wake of the recent Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek. “The mock felony demonstration just brings it home (and) it shows the general public what these men and women do every day. Hopefully, it gives them more respect for the job.”

It did for Nancy Douglass, general manager of 96.1 WLKG FM. One year, Douglass played a subject who was taken into custody.

“The time that we did it, I was with three other subjects,” she said. “I was driving the getaway car and they pulled me out, handcuffed me and put me in a squad car. … The thought crossed my mind that I never wanted to be in a police car like that in real life.”

Fantasy vs. reality

Douglass said during the demo, it was easy to forget it was just pretend. The officers — many of whom she is friends with — changed their behavior distinctly, she said, adding that they weren’t nice and meant business.

Douglass also said how police executed the stop was “very choreographed.” They issued commands to her. She had to place her hands on the steering wheel, remove the ignition keys, and drop them on the ground outside the vehicle.

“It’s almost more dramatic than what you see on television,” Douglass said.

She said she also watched as Sireno resisted police officers, and his performance helped her realize something about being a cop.

“If somebody is aggressive toward them, what chance do they have? Sometimes, criminals don’t give cops a choice,” Douglass said. “(Police) have so many things they have to take into consideration.”

A police officer for more than 35 years, Sireno said he has encountered some of the types of situations demonstrated at Kids Day Out while on duty, but there are some things he does to enhance the entertainment value.

“It’s kind of like ‘CSI’ on TV,” Sireno said. “In an hour show, they show more stuff than I’ve done in a year.”

There’s some reality Sireno puts into his performance. He said when he has executed felony traffic stops while on duty, he has dealt with people who are combative and “don’t want to go back to jail.” Some of Sireno’s performance is pure acting, though, like when he ripped open a bag of flour while fleeing on foot.

“Usually, if a person has a bag of pot or coke and they‘re trying to get rid of it, they will sprinkle it out the window,” he said.

But apparently, Sireno’s acting method isn’t much on the minds of the people who line both sides of Town Hall Road to watch the show. He said the question he’s most frequently asked usually comes from the kids.

Sireno said, “They come up and say hey, are you going to get pepper balled again?”

Well, are you?

Sireno said he is working a day shift in Genoa City Saturday, but he expects to be done before the demo begins.

“I’m going to try,” he said.