LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN & WOMEN

September 18, 2009

Application Deadline Nears For Citizen Police Academy

There are still a few slots open for the upcoming 2010 Citizen Police Academy, but the deadline for consideration of applicants is fast approaching. Each year the department invites a dozen or so citizens, from all walks of life, to get to know their police department better by participating in a scaled down version of the academy in which new officers train.

Local radio journalist Dustin Weis, from station WTDY, participated in last year's Citizen Police Academy. Following is part of an article he wrote for one of Police Chief Noble Wray's newsletter:

"I figured it would be a chance to get to know a few more of the faces that work beyond the public's realm of perception and learn how they do their jobs.
And I certainly got that chance, but more importantly, the citizen's academy leant me a deeper understanding and appreciation of the depth at which our police department operates. Granted, my perspective on the department's goings-on is still limited, but I was awed by the competence, dedication and attention to detail the public servants our class met bring to their jobs.

Viewed from the outside, the police department appears to move like some sort of autonomous, headless beast (much how the media appears to operate, from an outsider's perspective). But on a closer approach, one begins to grasp the number of levels that have to mesh in order for the department to work, from the beat cops that show up at a crime scene to the investigators that figure out what happened to the Crime Response Program that comes in and helps the victims start to pick up the pieces.

Again and again throughout the citizen's academy, I had these kinds of Eureka moments. It certainly makes sense that Madison has a need for a group that helps crime victims cope with the turmoil they've been through, or a gang task force that knows more about how gangs operate than the gang members themselves, or a unit that focuses on the well-being of the officers themselves as they cope daily with stressful situations everyday civilians go out of their way to avoid.

But these vital programs go unnoticed and unappreciated by most civilians, until recently myself included among them.
So it was, in going to these weekly classes, I came to expect to be surprised by what the various presenters had to offer, and I was never disappointed. I also had the chance to surprise a few of them as well, as those who came to know me as something of a deadeye with a 9-mil can attest to.

But while the evening at the MATC training range was certainly the most exciting of the classes, it was informative as well. I was more than a little alarmed to learn I had honed my skills with a firearm on video games at bars that are more technologically advanced than the simulators we train our own police force on.
The understanding and respect I took away from the nine-week course will do more than just help me as a journalist. While the Madison Citizen's Police Academy should probably serve as a prerequisite for any reporter in this city, the benefits I took away as a civilian are universal to any citizen of our city.

I owe my thanks to Lt. Melissa Schiferl for organizing the class, to the various presenters for their candor and taking the time to share their world with us and to the Madison Common Council for having the wisdom to resist one city leader's attempts to gut this gem of a program during last fall's budget process.

As police and media, we will have our inevitable misunderstandings, arguments and even occasions where we have to call each other out for being out-of-line. But if we can continue to build the relationship between cop and reporter, we'll be able to settle those disagreements with a heated discussion over a brew instead of a cold war. "

Dustin Weis
Reporter and News Anchor for AM 1670, WTDY

The deadline for applications this year is October 1st. They can be found on the MPD website: http://www.cityofmadison.com/police/joinTeam/citizenAcademy.cfm

The 2010 Citizen Police Academy is scheduled to run from Wednesday, January 20 to Wednesday, March 17. All classes will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Past classes have been held at one of the District Police Stations, but the final decision has not yet been made on which station will be the host for the 2010 Citizen Police Academy.

Contact:
  • Lt. Melissa Schiferl, 266-4887
  • Joel DeSpain, 266-4897