Approximately 20 Des Plaines residents and Des Plaines Police Department personnel celebrated the completion and graduation from the 12-week Citizen Police Academy at city hall on Dec. 4. Participants were presented with information on a range of law enforcement topics and received hands-on experience with many activities and techniques used by police.
Officers Collin Johnson and Mike Heidkamp coordinated the academy. Johnson said presentations on topics including law, juvenile detention and evidence collection were given to the group. Participants were also given opportunities to try their hands at the shooting range, ride-along in squad cars, simulate traffic stops and other interactive activities.
Johnson said in addition to the knowledge Citizen Police Academy participants received, the program also fosters relationships between police and community members
“They’re actually getting to not only meet these officers, but spend time with them in the squad car,” Johnson said. “So they’re learning what these guys are doing, why they do what they do, and then they’re able to take that information and that knowledge, and spread it amongst their friends, their neighbors and everybody else. So it’s a positive thing to have the community doing with us, because it’s a community partnership.”
Sarah Walsh, of Des Plaines, completed the Citizen Police Academy. In an email to Patch, Walsh stated her favorite part was the ride-along in the squad car because it put everything they learned into practice.
Walsh stated one of the most interesting activities they completed was the traffic stop simulations in the public works parking lot. She stated they were each given different scenarios to handle.
“Even though it was fake, you got a bit of the adrenaline rush that cops go through every time they stop someone,” Walsh stated. “We knew what we were walking into and they never do. I have always respected members of the police department, but this took it up a few notches.”
Johnson said another purpose of the Citizen Police Academy was to prepare people for volunteering in one of the other organizations in Des Plaines: Citizens on Patrol, the Medical Reserve Corps, the Neighborhood Watch Program and the Fire Corps.
“It’s a wonderful steppingstone for people to use that knowledge to move onto some of the other volunteer programs, so there’s lots of different benefits from it,” Johnson said.