When Chief Olko approached me about hosting and planning our 2017 Citizen Police Academy, I was excited to be able to finally show our citizens what the Auburn Hills Police do – and why. To destroy the myths about policing and give an in-depth view of the realities of policing.
The Academy started in September with 18 participants who committed to attend 8 successive Thursday evening classes. These participants ranged vastly in everything from their ages to their backgrounds. The one thing everyone had in common was that each and every person had an obvious passion to learn about the Auburn Hills Police.
We brought participants through the life of an Auburn Hills Police Officer from our initial in-house training to our specialized assignments. They learned about things ranging from fatal crash investigations and evidence processing to the police use of force. We made sure to keep the lessons interesting by using in-depth case studies (true cases out of our PD) and hands-on training. The final culmination of all this information was a night at the Auburn Hills Oakland Community College CREST Center training facility. This is where the participants put their knowledge to the test in scenario training using “Simunition” weapons (like a more advanced version of a paintball gun). They experienced the decision making process with shoot / don’t shoot scenarios with our use of force training team. I give that team a lot of credit because we found a few of our participants had “itchy trigger fingers” and those rounds hurt!
As I was planning the content of the Academy, which admittedly I could never have done without the help of the many members of the PD who reached out to offer help, I had one statement in my mind from Pastor Cal, a local church pastor who attended the academy. He asked a friend of his in the department “will this be worth my time?” I wanted to make sure it would be and, in hindsight – per the good Pastor himself – it was.
I wanted the participants to enjoy their experience and learn about the Police Department I have grown to be so proud of. I knew we had accomplished these objectives on week 8 during our graduation dinner when one of our participants told me that going through this Academy and seeing how our officers do business, made her “proud to be an Auburn Hills resident, and even more proud of our Police Department.”
Although the Academy is over for this year, I know that we hit our mark and beyond. Participants realized they were part of something bigger and many of them expressed they would like to continue their relationship with our department by volunteering in some way (even if it meant being the target next year at the CREST!). I expected that those who participated would learn something and have a good time, but was surprised by how many would identify with us so well and want to continue this legacy of community partnership. I look forward for the opportunity to continue this program, but for now take a look at these action shots of our 2017 Citizen Police Academy!