What do a children’s librarian and an IT guy who racked up a lot of noise violations while in college have in common? A keen enough interest in the Kent Police Department to commit more than 30 hours of their lives to the first-ever Citizen Police Academy.
And what do they expect to get out of it – besides a free polo shirt bearing the academy’s logo, a field trip to the police firing range and a chance to do a ride-along? A comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look at how the department operates.
Twenty Kent residents – 13 women and seven men of all ages and walks of life – on Thursday attended their first class of the 12-week program. The academy is free for participants, thanks to a U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance grant the department received last year.
Paul Canfield, Kent police administrative lieutenant and academy coordinator, said he didn’t know what to expect, application-wise, since the department has never run an academy.
“I’m pleasantly surprised that we filled the class. It’s a pretty eclectic group and I think we’re going to have a mutually beneficial experience,” Canfield said.
Thursday’s agenda included Canfield’s humor-infused overviews of the academy’s rules, what to expect in coming weeks, introductions to several key department members and tours of the police facility, where classes are held.
Among those addressing students were Bill Lillich, city service director; police Chief Michelle Lee; Greg Urchek, police operations captain; Jayme Cole, police services captain, and Rosemarie Mosher, dispatch coordinator. Each gave a brief overview of their career histories and what their present jobs entail.
Lee welcomed the class – which she referred to as “a good cross-representation of the community” – and said the department appreciates their commitment to the academy.
“We’re going to be having some fun. The program will be entertaining,” Lee said, lauding Canfield for his sense of humor.
Lillich said the academy is “the culmination of about two years of planning and preparation … all part of a multifaceted approach to enable the police department to get much closer to the community.”
“Our people cannot effectively do their jobs … without the support of the community, without the community understanding what the police department does,” Lillich said. “You’ll get to know why officers make the decisions they do and what kinds of issues confront them when they make those decisions.”
Lillich said police administrators look forward to reading the feedback questionnaires students will be filling out weekly “because there will be future academies.”
Classmates got to know each other when Canfield asked each to share brief bios and their expectations for both the police department and the citizen academy.
A retired medical office manager, an Ametek engineer and a Kent State University payroll clerk all mentioned relatives who did or still do work in law enforcement, prompting their desire to take a closer look at the career field.
A former Kent Police dispatcher said she wanted to see departmental changes that had occurred since her retirement.
A student-rental property manager who wanted a behind-the-scenes peek at what police go through said she’s most looking forward to riding in a cruiser down College Avenue or University Drive during her ride-along with an officer.
The IT guy said that when he was a Kent State student, “I got a lot of noise ordinance violations …. and now want to see the other side of things.”
A factory worker said he joined the academy because “you always hear about a police officer when they do something bad … I just wanted to get inside to see what kind of pressures they really deal with.”
The children’s librarian is a longtime avid reader of police-oriented detective stories. “I want to see if anything I’ve been reading has any basis in reality,” she laughed.
Terri McGucken works in the managed health care field, serves on the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County and teaches a NAMI Family to Family class. “I often view the police department from the perspective of mentally ill residents and I’d like to see police from a different perspective,” she said.
There are two mother-daughter duos enrolled in the academy.
One of them consists of Debbie Bartels and daughter, Dianne, who at 19 is the youngest student in the class. Debbie, a late-night convenience store clerk, said she has always had good experiences with Kent police both in her neighborhood and on the job.
“I’m tired of (the police) getting a bad reputation all the time. I’d like to be a voice for them so when people criticize, I could offer a positive explanation,” she said.