As some of you know, I'm working on a mystery series. The series is set in Ann Arbor, and the love interest is a detective from the AAPD.
In pursuit of more realism, I called a friend who has worked at the AAPD, in various capacities, to ask some questions in terms of scenarios, details, etc. As always, this friend was incredibly generous and kind and offered any services that might be helpful.
He also told me about the Ann Arbor Citizens Police and Court Academy.
This program is not unique - these programs exist in many cities of mid-size and higher. For that matter, they may also exist in small towns, and I simply don't know about them. Our Academy exists for several reasons: 1. After the series of 10 sessions, citizens are enabled/trained to be volunteers for our very, very overworked officers and staff. No, this doesn't mean that we run around with shiny badges making citizen arrests, it simply means we can show up at public events, help serve things, assist with whatever human needs the police department might need. One of the graduates, for example, now does a lot of publicity photos for the department. 2. The Academy teaches us about the ins and outs of the AAPD so that, ostensibly, we become great citizen diplomats for the department. 3. The Academy trains us what to do in a variety of circumstances, so hopefully we are smarter in terms of crime issues and pass on some of that information to others, as well as alerting others to taking the Citizens Police Academy course.
Now, to understand how weird this is for me, you have to understand that I was brought up by leftist activists and all forms of authority were looked upon with suspicion. I've never fired a gun and never wanted to. My feelings about police were imprinted by watching crowd control during the 60s and 70s. My gut instinct upon seeing a police officer in my youth was to RUN.
The friend I mentioned earlier was the first dent in those unfair, prejudiced perceptions. I met him through a home schooling circle of friends, and he was certainly the "Pied Piper" dad with all the kids. They adore him, and he adores them. He's gentle and a great teacher. I knew he worked for the police department. Then I learned he was one of the major players on the SWAT team.
This was a bit hard to reconcile, to say the least. So, um, yeah, I had some prejudice stuff to work out, clearly.
In any case, I can't tell you how impressed I've been with each three-hour session of the Academy. I've been meaning to post weekly, but it's been a bit crazy this last bit of time, so I'll start that series next week. So far, we've had sessions on Communications (911, etc.), traffic stops (which I missed, due to allergies up the wazoo), the K-9 team and surveillance, Civil Emergency Response and the SWAT team. Every single presenter has been clear, witty, kind and patient. Many of the personal stories have been heartbreaking. The woman who has put the whole thing together - Adele El-Ayoubi, Crime Prevention Specialist and Crime Analyst for the Investigative Division, as well as Department Volunteer Coordinator, is simply incredible. As a teacher and as a writer, I've been to many, many training sessions of this type. This is, by far, the most interesting and well-developed program I've ever participated in.
Yeah, I know, we all read about how the "cops" don't care - they're corrupt, they're sadistic, they have awful records with divorce and abuse. But you know what? The media just loves to give a bad name to everyone. Um, as a teacher, I *know* that all teachers are lazy, just take the job to have summers off, and like to hold power over their students. Oh, and then there's that little gem - "those who can't do, teach." Nice. And untrue. Every single teacher who is my friend works his or her tail off. Now, I'm not saying every, single teacher does this. I'm just saying that the folks that I respect, the folks that are part of my circle, teach as if every day was their last day to impart information to their students.
So, I think we have to think carefully about how the media presents our teachers, our police officers, our doctors (who, of course, are only in it for the money. Yeah. Right), etc.
The next time you see a police officer, put yourself in his or her shoes. They lay their lives on the line for you. Every. Day. They're there because they want to serve. They probably joined to make a real difference in the world. We need to be very, very thankful that these men and women have chosen to provide help and service when needed. Yes, they make mistakes. Yes, we all do. But if I've learned nothing else in the past several weeks, I've learned that above all else, these officers want to be the heroes in our lives, to make our lives better and safer and to provide aid.
And if you have interest in this area, check out your local Citizens Academy. It's worth every minute.