By Randy Pierce
FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS – Like others before them, the participants in the eighth annual Fairview Heights Police Department Citizens Academy came away from it more knowledgeable about the challenges and responsibilities that are faced by law enforcement officers.
For nine Thursday evenings and one Saturday morning session of about three hours each, concluding with a graduation ceremony in early November, there were 14 adults who experienced classroom instruction and a lot of hands-on interaction related to the concepts, techniques, logistics, weapons and emotions concerning police officers’ duties.
Those receiving graduation certificates for completing the series of sessions about modern policing included Lisa Bray, Kevin Bunetic, Tonya Crouch, Julie Crum, Dennis Dillard, Jack Firse, Shirley Firse, Jane Francis, James Garrett, Sherry Hackbarth, Brandon McAnally, Mark Parker, Rachel Pehle and Michael Wright.
On the evening of the graduation, the ceremony was disrupted when calls concerning a house fire at 417 Kim Drive in the east end of Fairview Heights came in because several of the officers who were present left to respond to the emergency.
Compounding that situation was a related report concerning a child who was missing but later found at the Schnucks store in Swansea, safe and unharmed.
The citizens academy graduates were treated to a nice buffet meal and told about the Volunteers in Policing program which they may participate in to provide assistance to the department by doing certain tasks, thus freeing up the time of the officers and others there for matters or more importance with it. I have nothing but respect for police officers now.”
The academy program consists of a combination of presentations, tours and hands-on experiences intended to give citizens a better understanding of modern policing in a local context and will likely be offered again later this year. Topics that have been covered traditionally include a tour of the department and a visit to the St. Clair County Jail in Belleville for a tour.
One of the exercises enjoyed by academy participants consisted of a visit on Saturday morning, September 21, to the Southwestern Illinois Tactical Training Center with everyone meeting at the Fairview Heights Police Department and going there together.
Among the other topics covered included police dispatching, drugs and narcotics enforcement, driving under the influence, field sobriety testing, the use of force by police, a Taser demonstration, the killing and assaulting of law enforcement officers, simulated traffic stops, crime scene investigation, financial crimes and safety, military integrated laser operations and, as presented by Swansea Chief of Police Steve Johnson, reading, recognizing and responding to certain situations.
Most of the sessions are held in the centre court at the police department headquarters on Bunkum Road.