Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Class One - History and Department Structure

Last night was my first class of the Albany Citizens Police Academy. I arrived on time, actually a couple minutes early. The class was fuller than I expected. I don't know why I expected it to be small, but I did. Okay, I didn't count the number of people, but I was pleasantly surprised. I looked around the room looking for a seat. There were only a few left. A girl on the opposite side of the room smiled at me, so I headed for the empty chair next to her. We struck up a conversation and chatted again later.

Binders were provided for each student along with a stenonotebook and a pen. We also have to wear nametags. Oh, joy!! At least they're the necklace kind instead of clip things that destroy clothes. And, I get it, really I do. After all, I chaired a conference, so I know name tags make it easier to identify one another.

The presentation started with an orientation lead by Community Ed. Specialist Carmen Westfall. She explained what we should expect from the class and what was expected of us. She also told us a little about herself, her relocation from the Midwest, and her job with the Albany Police Department. She took us through the binder explaining what was included and telling us about the ride-a-long form included in case any of us want to schedule a ride-a-long. Oh, yeah, a ride-a-long!! That sounds too tempting. I will be turning that form in at the next class.

Apparently, the Chief, Ed Boyd, is usally there on the first night, but as it was his 31st anniversary and he has a promise to his wife regarding their anniversary, he was spending it with her. I've got to admit I found his keeping his promise both honorable and admirable, especially given his line of work. Captain Eric Carter read a statement from the Chief welcoming the class and expressing that he looks forward to meeting us next week.

Captain Jeff Henrichs and Captain Carter shared duties explaining the history and structure of the department. They discussed the mission statement "Excellence Through Service" and how they use it to stay focused on integrity, impartiality, and respect as they go about problem resolution and communication within the community.

They explained the various roles of those within the department and talked a bit about the mission statement and the Chief's encouragement to the department to always strive for the WOW factor in dealing with the community.

I very much enjoyed hearing how a small department runs since the department in my manuscript, Red, is a very small department in a very small town in Kentucky. They confirmed something I suspected; that in small departments everyone much pitch in where needed regardless of title or rank. Each position in the department has a defined role, but when resources are tight, the important thing is getting the job done.

A common theme throughout the presentation was about interagency cooperation. They explained how all the policing agencies in the area work together and lend a hand for major investigations or even just bad accidents. They also explained that it is important to have these good working relationships with other agencies in the area because their needs overlap and their budgets make it impossible for every department to have every need met. By working together, they can fill one another's gaps and help to keep the citizens safer.

They talked about training and mandatory training hours that carry on throughout an officer's career. They briefly described the state requirements for physical fitness for police officers joining the force. There's no fitness retest for officers once they have the job though.

They mentioned the three K-9s who work with the department. Two are dogs who search for people and one is dedicated to narcotics searches. The dogs live with their handlers and become a part of the family. I smiled at the idea that they are really big teddy bears trained to do a job because I'd bet the criminals they track would highly disagree with that assessment!

They discussed how technology has made the job more efficient  because of the ease in doing research, background checks, and taking reports while in the field. Both captains also mentioned that when they started, everything was done with pen and paper. They kept a notebook and pen in the car to jot down addresses, locations, calls, and the positions of other officers.

The presentation was an overview that touched on the things we'll learn more about in the coming weeks. I went in expecting a dry lecture but was surprised to get a dynamic and informative overview of the Albany Police Department.

Both captains answered all questions asked with honesty. They were thorough yet succinct.

Talking with Captain Carter during the break and after the presentation was interesting and informative. He went so far as to look up a statistic that troubled me enough to approach him during the break to see if I understood it correctly. He later came back and gave me more precise information.

Captain Carter and Captain Henrich left the class, or at least me, anxious for the next class and ready to learn more!! Looking forward to next Tuesday night!!

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