Monday, November 21, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Final Thoughts

I signed up for the Albany Citizens Police Academy to enhance the crime scenes and the investigations in my novels. I realized even before class started that the purpose of the class was to build better relations between the community and the police department, so I knew my needs wouldn't be the focus of the academy. I resigned myself to this and decided to garner what I could from the class because every insight, every new bit of knowledge helps, every observation can lead to something.

When I started the class, I also hoped to make a new friend or two. But then again, I go into every situation hoping to make a new friend or two. I'm of the mindset that one can never have enough friends. Well, I can say I made a few acquaintances, so it's a start!

As a writer, I also hoped to make some contacts within the department. That I'm fairly sure I accomplished. I have business cards of several members of the department, and Chief Boyd sought me out after my talk on the last night to give me his card and encourage me to contact him if I had any questions he could answer for my upcoming books! Wow, nice!

I found the Albany Citizens Police Acadamy rewarding. The EVOC rides and the shooting simulation were certainly enjoyable and enlightening. I loved seeing the K-9 unit is action even if they were only excercises. Wearing the Fatal Vision goggles was enlightening, and seeing the drugs firsthand surprising. And, that only hits aa few of the memorable moments already detailed in various posts on my blog. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the members of the department and getting a better understanding of their roles.

Small town departments work differently than departments in large cities, and I think that's important for writers and readers as well as citizens to keep in mind. One of the main differences being that everyone in a small department is expected to pitch in when needed and that Detective, at least in Albany Police Department, is a lateral, temporary assignment not a lifetime promotion as is the case in larger departments and usually on television and in books.

Also, there is no law enforcement department that is as well-equipped as the CSI shows might lead one to believe. Often, between limited resources and the backlog at state forensic analysis offices, evidence takes months to be processed creating delays in investigations and prosecutions. That is reality!

The members of the Albany Police Department and law enforcement community who taught the classes and demonstrated myriad aspects of the job seemed to truly enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience with the class. They were always positive about their jobs even when describing the challenges. At times, the instructors took topics that seems mundane and made them interesting and engaging.

Shortly after one particular class, my husband and I were driving home in the evening and saw a police vehicle parked off the road and empty. As we stopped at a stop sign, we saw an officer walking in our lane toward us with his flashlight shining right at our car. In the past, I would've started wondering if we'd done something wrong and probably gotten nervous. Having taken the class and just days before that learned that many times officers are just looking for help, I didn't even give it a second thought. As he approached the driver side window, I tilted my head down so I could see him from the passenger side. I recognized Seargent Drum from our EVOC training. He asked us if we'd seen anyone pass us as he scanned the light over the interior of our car. Before I would've thought the light scanning the car was because he considered us suspicious, but thanks to the class I realized he was just making sure there were no surprises in the back seat. We said no. He thanked us and resumed his search. End of conversation. We went on our way.

The moral of that story is that you shouldn't always assume you've done something wrong just because a police officer approaches you. He/she may just need any information you can give them. Perhaps even a lack of information can be helpful. You never know. I have to admit, I wished for a minute that we'd seen someone, so we could've pointed him in the right direction, but who knows perhaps us not seeing the person was helpful in its own way. Maybe that helped rule out a direction. Maybe not, but who knows.

What I know is that I better appreciate the work our Albany Police Department does with limited resources and in conjunction with neighboring law enforcement agencies. It takes a whole community to create a safe environment that is mutually beneficial to all its citizens. The police have a function to serve and so do the citizens of any community. I am now more aware of what goes on around me, and I was already fairly aware. I am also more cognizant of the fact that I may not know what's going on around me. For example, I had no idea just how large the drug problem is in the Albany area or how much the police departments in the area have worked together to bring it under control.

If your city, or town, or a neighboring town offers a Citizens Police Academy, I encourage you to take it. You'll be surprised at what you learn about your community, your role as a citizen, and the job of the police. If you're a writer just don't expect the class to cater to your specific needs. That's not what it's designed for. (There is an Academy for that as well called the Writers Police Academy. It's in session once a year.) The Citizens Police Academy is designed to create a better relationship between the police and the citizens they serve. If you live in the Albany, Oregon area, check out the Albany Citizens Police Academy.

I think we could all benefit from understanding each other's roles in society a little better. We often forget there are those who work tirelessly to make sure we enjoy the comforts of the lives we build. None of us succeed or fail on our own no matter how much we think we do. It just isn't possible.

So, thank a police officer for giving up his/her weekends, holidays, and family time, so you can spend that time with yours safely.

My thanks to all the police officers in the communities surrounding mine as well as the communities where my loved ones reside for doing your part to keep combat crime and keep us all safe.

No comments:

Post a Comment