Last week’s post talked briefly about the benefits mystery writer’s could glean from attending a citizen’s police academy. Now I’m going to share some of what I learned from the 1st week of the citizen’s academy I’m attending.
After being buzzed into the station and before being allowed to join other attendees, I had to stick a name tag on ‘my person’ (that’s my take on cop speak) and pose for a photo – and, yes, I cracked comments about how it felt a bit like an impromptu mug shot. The officer said it was just to help him learn names, but I was (still am) suspicious. 🙂
Week 1 was full of introductions – to each other and to several police officers – as well as to what to expect for the 10 weeks of the program.
First up on the agenda was “opening remarks & introduction by C.O.P.” All I could think was, of course we’re going to get opening remarks from a cop, we’re in a police station attending a police academy. Upon the introduction of the Chief of Police, I was humbled and glad I hadn’t spoken out loud. It’s just one of many acronyms I’m learning in this academy.
We were given a glimpse into how big the department is with full-timers, part-timers, and citizen staff members. We learned how the patrol schedule worked and how canine officers became part of the department, among other things.
We took a tour of the police department (PD) and had our fingerprints taken – the old-fashioned way – with ink. (I was recently cleared to work at an airport and got to experience the new non-ink way of scanning and collecting fingerprints.) Ink pads are still common in smaller, low-traffic departments. Thankfully, the ink washed right off. No black remnants for even a few minutes. And the soap wasn’t abrasive or stinky, it was soft and smelled quite nice.
But along with the photo at the start and then the fingerprints, I briefly wondered if I was going to see the outside of the station at the end of the night after all. A more paranoid person might have been jumpy by then. I went with the flow. (No, we didn’t get our photos or fingerprint sheets to take home.)
I was particularly fascinated with learning about the intense accreditation process the department goes through every 3 years, and proud to know that the department was recently re-accredited after meeting their number of applicable requirements from the total 480 possible standards.
Not sure if it’s a coincidence, or perhaps part of the accreditation (I’ll have to ask), but of the 3 citizen police academies I’ve attended, each has been accredited. Since the OIC (officer in charge) takes a lot of pictures during each class and once said something about proving that they are having the academy they probably need to prove they have a community education outreach program of some sort.
The international accrediting agency is CALEA – Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Police departments don’t have to be accredited, but of course it’s a great achievement and can only benefit a community to know their police officers are following more than their own self-created departmental standards.
An officer spoke to us about the recruiting process and the months-long training with various FTOs (field training officers) a rookie gets after completing the police academy before being let out on his (or her) own.
Then a rookie officer (he’s only been with the PD for 10 months) gave us a glimpse inside the actual 14-week police academy experience. He also talked about his experience prior to joining the PD and why he chose this career. Great stuff, but he looked so young!
It was a busy night, filled with a lot of information, and a great start to the academy.
There’s so much fodder for a mystery writer to work with. I mean, already, I have new ideas for characters – a rookie officer who does well on physical tests but can’t pass a written exam no matter what; a C.O.P. in a town that doesn’t want accreditation because it would mean more rules to follow; a mid-30s woman wanting to become a police officer; a crooked officer who mucks with the accreditation process… it doesn’t all have to be guns and blood, or a murder mystery!
If you have any questions, please let me know! I can ask questions before, during, and after each class, so if something in particular leaps to mind, let me know. (I’ll be asking if the academy is related to accreditation, at least!)