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Civilian Police Academy offers passport to working culture of police department

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Bureau reporter Elaine describes her experience attending the GRPD's Civilian Police Academy, learning about the inner workings of our police department.
Underwriting support from:

/ Police cruiser cake equipped with lights and sirens made by a member of the 2012 Civilian Police Academy graduating class. Grand Rapids Police Department

By Elaine

People asked me why I applied for the Citizen’s Police Academy. I tell them to think back to the time when neighbors looked out for each other, and how they would feel if they were robbed and no one would do anything. I have worked closely with my neighborhood association to bring crime awareness to my block and to be a resource for my neighbors when issues arise. Expanding my perspective when it comes to neighborhood crime issues for me included having a better understanding of what our city’s police force does for us.

When I found out that 150 people applied for the class and only 30 were accepted, I was honored to be one of them. The Citizens Police Academy opened my eyes to the everyday work duties of the employees that work at the Grand Rapids Police Department. After 10 weeks of volunteering one night a week for 3½ hours to get a better perspective of the work our men in uniform do, I have gained valuable insight.

Topics covered include the work our Special Response Team does and the dangerous situations they train for, what is involved in a police traffic stop from beginning to end (you would be surprised), forensics and the process involved in collecting and analyzing DNA and, lastly, putting on a “special sleeve” and letting a “K-9” officer bite you at the command of his trainer.

Some other topics equally as important were covered, including the work of the Internal Affairs unit, the Vice Squad and their undercover officers and the work of the prosecuting attorney’s office. At the end of the class, we each took a turn riding for 12 hours with a police officer and reporting on what we did and saw (very exciting on the nightshift).

I recommend that anyone interested in learning more about what our police department does to sign up for this class. The police department may lose as many 29 officers if the city commission enacts the recommendations of the ICMA report released earlier this year. I have gained great perspective regarding the roles of the everyday police officer on her beat and feel as a citizen I have additional insight on what my role is in ensuring that I live in a safe community. 

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