Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Police Academy

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.

Huh?

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.

34 comments:

CableGirl said...

I too have the instinct of seeing a cop and rapidly fleeingg in the other direction... but that's not because of them. that's because most of my life I was doing things that would have given the cops reason to come after me.

Call me reformed.

can't wait to read about the sessions.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Well... erm... there may have been *some* of that in my own past, too. Cough, cough.

And call me reformed, too. ;-)

anno said...

There's just something about that uniform that makes me feel guilty. My instinct is to slow down by 5 mph... even if I'm not over the limit.

I enjoyed learning about this program, though, and am looking forward to hearing more.

anno said...

And. I've gotta say, I'm looking forward to reading that mystery of yours. Maybe soon?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Maybe soon. Maybe this will give me some impetus to get THROUGH those stubborn revisions.

Lilacspecs said...

That's really cool. I had no idea citizen's academies really existed. Sound slike you're learning a lot and I bet it'll help with your writing. I'd talk about some of the reasons I avoided cops when I was younger but I don't have citizenship in Belgium yet so I need to keep a low profile. Heehee.

Sarabeth said...

I often grumble about those perceptions people have about certain professions. My mother was a teacher, so I've heard the lazy one. My sister is a lawyer, so she's a money-grubbing snake. My husband is a doctor, so he's only in it for the money. I'm a stay at home mom, so I'm wasting my education.

This was great to read, Jen. Good luck with the mystery.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Lilac, I hadn't really known about them, either. I knew there was some similar program for teens, but had no idea this amazing program was in place for adults.

Great perspective to keep in mind, Sarabeth, and thanks for the good wishes!

Thalia's Child said...

Great post!

2 things:

1 - Teachers who can't teach? Do they teach teachers?

2 - I've always seen the 'if you can't do, teach' as an encouragement to continue doing what you love, even if you can no longer do it, for whatever reasons - My Mum is an excellent example of this - she's been unable to do 12 hour rotational shifts as a nurse for years, so instead, she's been the clinical nurse educator for her ward - she can't do the work, but she can sure teach how it should be done.

It pisses me off when it gets corrupted into 'people who are bad at their jobs should go into teaching' - probably just as much as your understanding of the phrase does to you.

:D

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

The thing is, that the particular phrase originally applied to the world of Academia - implying that those who couldn't "be" their profession "taught" their profession. And that's totally unfair, too. And I love it when someone can't do the physical work anymore and goes into teaching - I see that as incredibly powerful. Your mom must rock!

thailandchani said...

When I first started college, before switching to sociology, I wanted to be a homicide investigator. My major was criminal justice. Regardless of the many indictments leveled toward the police, I never had that "pigs" mentality that was so pervasive when I was young in the 60s. They really do a very important job and the brutes are rare and far between. Nor are they apologists for the establishment. They're just trying to keep the streets safe so we can at least live somewhat harmoniously.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Chani!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

This is so intersting Jen and I appreciate you writing so openly about it. I really think that until you know someone personally in a line of work, that instinctually makes you want to run (like police officers do for me - and many of the other things you mentioned)and you can put a human face to the job, it is hard to see it in a different light.

April said...

You know, I do wish our news focused as much on the good as the bad. It's like w/ anything: all day cares beat up the children, no single parent actually cares, blah blah blah. We get our impressions based on all the horror stories we see on networks trying to scare up ratings (especially any Fox News watchers :).
Here in L.A., of course, I hear many tales of woe, and my cousin's a cop, and quite honestly, not the nicest guy you'll ever meet.
However, it is important to point out that while cliches may exist for a reason to a point, they're not true of everyone. Unfortunately, there are police that will abuse their power. But a lot of them won't.
Sorry, didn't mean to write a post down here. I'll stop now.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Jenn, I was in your boat, too. This has really been a change for me.

April, I was wondering when I'd hear from someone from L.A. It certainly seems to be one of the most challenged and possibly corrupt departments out there. I also think, though, that whenever you're talking really big city police you probably get the best of the best, and the worst of the worst. And never worry about writing a post in comments - I love it!

glamah16 said...

Interesting post. I see so much abuse and corruption in the system and yet I have to remind myself how much worse things would be if we didnt have law enforcement. I guess in any thing there will be some bad apples.A little off topic, but I was appalled this morning on GMT when they showed a woman in Nashville call 911 as her ex boyfriend assaulted her. The operator at dispatch was recorded saying 'He didnt give a F*** what happened to her".Of course he was fired. But its people like that that cause the distrust in the first place and seeing movies like the Departed and American Gangster.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

That's the thing, Glamah - it can be one bad apple that spoils everything and our perceptions of the profession. Being a 911 dispatcher is an extraordinarily hard job, and most of the people in it are enormously dedicated, but clearly this jerk shouldn't have made it into the control room in the first place. On the other hand, do we know of any professions where there aren't jerks? The problem is, in service jobs - education, law enforcement, medical, the clergy, we expect everyone to be perfect, I think. Or maybe we're just that much more appalled when they don't come through. Despite what I say here, I know I get absolutely disgusted with someone who's supposed to be in a position of helping people and then falls flat or even worse, does harm.

Ben said...

This post is very interesting. I didn't know about the citizens police and court academy but sounds like something very good for a community because it brings citizens and authority closer, which in my opinion is a good thing.
And I know what you mean about having unfounded prejudices against the police. Hey, even in Mexico we have good police officers, and that is saying a lot! :-p

Marye said...

excellent post, Jen. Very true. It seems no matter who we are we can be clumped in one of "those" groups.
blessings,
marye
bakingdelights.com

Sandy C. said...

What a great post. So true. Drives me nuts when all nurses are labeled as "nurse ratchets" too.

Years ago I was car-jacked. The police officers and detectives were so amazing throughout my ordeal, and they gave me a newfound respect.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Ben, it's great to hear your perspective, because I think Mexico's one of those places where there are amazing stereotypes against the police.

Marye and Sandy, that's what I was trying to talk about - how we can end up being labeled. Sandy, I'm so sorry you went through a carjacking. I was attacked years ago and the police woman who worked with me was very pragmatic and compassionate.

Renaedujour said...

HA! I took a citizen'a police academy class when I was a reporter, and I wish you were in my class. The police were totally nice, but we came from very different world views. One time they showed us a clip of a long-haired man in an alley talking to two young boys. Their take: likely drug dealer. My take: A loving uncle helping his latch key nephews. :) I think I drove them crazy.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Renae, I have the same world view as yours, I'm guessing. ;-) Since I live in a quite liberal town, there's more "openness" and less stereotyping among our police than the usual, I would guess. That also extends to our teachers, (most) clergy, etc., etc.

Karen Olson said...

What a fantastic research opportunity! Good luck with the series!

Los Angelista said...

Very cool that you're getting to take this class and learn all that you are. I have two family members who are officers and it's hard for them because there's so much negative experience with police within the black community, but on the other hand, everybody still calls the cops when something's popping off in the neighborhood.

And I get really annoyed by the folks who think teaching is just something you do because you couldn't figure out what else you want to do with your life. Ugh, for all that work and commitment, I don't think so!

Alex Elliot said...

Wow, Jen! What a great post. I didn't know about this type of program. It sounds a wonderful idea. Kudos to you for your honesty. Personally I've never had a bad image of cops, but I was born in 76 and I can understand where you're coming from after hearing many stories from others.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Karen, it's been a wonderful research situation. And so many of the officers have generously given us e-mails to contact them outside the classes, too, in case we have questions.

Liz - this is exactly the type of thing that distresses me. And needless to say the image of teachers is frustrating to me.

Alex - it may be generational, but I think it's also where you're from, etc.

Goofball said...

you are working on a mystery series? So coool, nope I didn't know that.

that program sounds quite interesting. I believe I have a fairly nutral attitude towards police, most of my encounters have been friendly ones apart from some parking and speeding tickets, but I'm the only one to blame for that.

Yet, it would be interesting to learn more about the diverse aspects of such a department. I am curious to learn more about what you've learned!

painted maypole said...

great post. very interesting. one of our best friends and MQ's godfather is a cop, and it's been eye opening.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Goofball, yes, that's the book I finished in Feb., and am still revising. I've also started working on the second one. I'll share the basics of what I learn. I can't share specifics due to a confidentiality agreement.

PM - I'm sure it is. It's like a friend of mine who served in the army during the Gulf War. I now have a very different perspective of military life.

Leslie said...

Wow, what a great experience! I'm excited to hear more about what you learned.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Wow, Leslie! You really went to town on blog reading! The police academy has definitely been an interesting experience. I'll start writing weekly on it.

Núria said...

Wow Jen! There was so much passion in this post!!! Hey, I think is good that we all acknowledge the good work/job others do... and police department is not different from others :D

I'm shocked because this "general" idea you have on teachers is the same here in Spain... Most people think they take the job to have long summer holidays and work less hours a day than the rest... but my brother and daughter are both teachers and I swear they are good and they sweat their shirts!!!

Learning new things is always so thrilling!!!!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks for the support, Nuria! I guess I am an optimist, and think that, in general, people enter service fields to give service and do their best.