On Thursday, February 4, 2016 we went to our first Citizen’s Police Academy session. We did not know what to expect. Matt said he thought he was going to learn about what police officers do when they are at work and Junior said he thought he was going to see if it was different for real life police officers than the police officers you see on TV.
When we got to the Academy we were greeted by a group of people and some of them we already knew. They were people from Matt’s high school, Junior’s church, and people Matt knew from his days performing at the Holland. Matt felt very comfortable when he saw these people and Junior was excited to see the police officers. They were dressed in their uniforms and looked professional. The people that greeted us as we came in were former Citizen Police Academy members. They have created a group of alumni from the Citizens Police Academy. The group is called Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association. They provided us with cookies and made sure we had everything we needed. We were in heaven.
After introductions were made and the police officer in charge of the program, Sergeant Shields told us about what we could expect from our 16 weeks in the Academy we received a visit from the Mayor of Bellefontaine, Ben Stahler. He is a former Citizens Police Academy member and stays active in the Alumni Association. He told us to remember how we felt today and to think about what we thought we were going to learn because we were going to be amazed by how different our perspectives will be once we are alumni.
Our speaker for the evening was Police Chief Brandon Stanley. We could tell he was a direct, no non‐ sense kind of guy and we really liked him for it. He called us by our names and respected us. Chief Standley told us about what the men and women at the Police department do daily, and their responsibilities. He also went over the different ranks in the police department and gave us a tour of the building.
From his talk we realized that police officers on duty each day or night have a lot of things to do and not a lot of coworkers to accomplish those responsibilities. The police department typically only has a handful of officers on duty at a time. Junior was shocked by this and said he thought they had a lot of police officers on duty at a time because he he always sees them in Bellefontaine. He thought they should know they do a good job being visible. Junior wanted to know why more officers are not on duty at a time to help with all the responsibilities. Chief Standley explained that the police department’s budget only allows for so many officers but he said people do not always follow through with completing all of the requirements officers must go through before being interviewed for the position. Junior liked that the Bellefontaine Police Department have standards and will not hire people that do not meet those standards. He said that makes him feel safe.
At the end of the evening we watched a movie called the Twin Towers. It is about 2 brothers involved in the tragedy we know as 9 eleven. Matt is an avid collector of knowledge about the day the world stopped turning and thought it was important that people are aware of what happened and do not forget. Matt said we should protect our heroes and make sure that nobody ever causes that much harm to America again. He is really glad he is in the Citizens Police Academy and cannot wait until the second session held on February 11, 2016. He will hear from Joe Bader, Municipal Prosecutor about what the Municipal Court Prosecutors, City Law Director and the Bellefontaine Victim’s Advocate do to make our community safe.
Week two our instructor was Joe Bader, Municipal Court Prosecutor. He taught us about warrants, reasonable suspicion, probable cause, search and seizure. We learned the process police officers go through in order to determine whether they have reasonable amounts of suspicion that a crime has been committed. After a police officer has a reasonable amount of suspicion he investigates until he has probable cause to arrest someone for the crime. Matt enjoyed the examples Mr. Bader used to help the class understand the processes. His favorite example was the pair of students that acted out a drunk driving scene. Junior was amazed that once a police officer starts talking to people about the potential crime that people tend to tell on themselves. He said this helped him realize that he tends to talk when he gets nervous too so he can understand how easily it is to tell on yourself in those situations. After Mr. Bader spoke, the 9-1-1 dispatchers spoke about their jobs. The dispatchers are civilian employees of the Police Department and are pretty impressive. They should be overwhelmed by all they do but somehow they are able to multi-task and process 9-1-1 calls, traffic stops from officers, internal operations of the station, phone lines, face-to-face requests and other duties all at once. The dispatchers have a half dozen or so screens to look at during their shift. These screens give them a variety of information from different sources. They also have a system in place to communicate with officers, and a telephone and a window to communicate with the public. Matt and Junior both enjoyed their presentation. Matt remembered a time when he needed to use 9-1-1 due to an injury to his knee and now he knows exactly what occurred once the dispatcher picked up the phone. He thanked them for helping him that day. Matt wants people to know how important dispatchers are and cannot wait to learn more about the different parts of police work. Next week Matt and Junior will learn about juvenile justice, distracted driving, and patrolling the city.
Week 3 of Citizens Police Academy brought forth feelings of empowerment for Junior and Matt. The class began with a great dinner from Fazoli’s and a thought provoking presentation from a grieving couple that lost their son to distracted driving. The couple’s son was Rusty and he was killed by a texting driver and also served as a Bailiff in Ohio. Matt thought it was really sad that Rusty’s parents do not get to talk to him anymore but was amazed that they spend the time they would have spent with him educating people on the dangers that occur when people do not pay attention to the road. Junior does not drive vehicles but he said he will never talk on the phone and bicycle ever again. He said he would never want to cause an accident and leave people without their loved ones. He just would not know how to live with himself.
Officer Seth Ellis spoke next on juvenile justice and gave us information on the drug treatment court and the diversion program. Drugs and skipping school tend to be a big problem for some kids. Seth told us that he has even worked with kids with criminal problems that are under 10 years old! Some of the time kids respond to assistance from the courts but other times they continue on the path of crime and eventually reach JDC or have even up in Child Prison. One of the latest issues law enforcement is faced with are synthetic drugs. These are chemically created drugs that are packaged and sold as incense but kids are using them to get high. The chemical compounds are always changing to keep law enforcement from being able to test for the drugs. Mr. Ellis highlighted that the war on drugs never rests.
Officer Roger Hager talked about the patrol officer role. Patrol officers spend a lot of time driving the streets of Bellefontaine to maintain a presence and to serve as a peaceful reminder to people in the community. They also look around for falling wires, missing signs, potholes, water main breaks, hazards in the roadways, and situations that are out of the normal. They are doing all of this while keeping an eye out for speeding motorists and debilitated drivers. Other times they are responding to requests for assistance from the sheriff or highway patrol for aid, following up on 9-1-1 calls or investigating a report made by a citizen. Matt thinks patrol officers are busy people with a lot of jobs and Junior is pretty sure they do not get paid enough to do all that they do. Junior and Matt salute these officers and are very thankful to have them keeping Bellefontaine safe. Matt and Junior are signing up to patrol the streets with an officer for an evening and cannot wait to report on how their ride-along goes.
Next week we are all excited to learn more about drunk driving and to have an officer physically show us the effects alcohol has on abilities and focus. Junior and Matt cannot wait to see an officer perform a field sobriety test.
Week five started off with dinner from the Bellefontaine Fire Department. Matt thought they would make us lasagna but they opted to get us Subway! Matt and Junior enjoyed the dinner and munched through the first presentation by Volunteer Bellefontaine Police Department Chaplain, Mike Valentine. Mr. Valentine goes on emergency calls, provides words of encouragement, speaks at special events, and counsels. He told us that police officers are people just like everyone and have dreams and goals to achieve. Sometimes in their work they experience something they need help learning to cope with and he is there to assist those officers with coming to terms with what they experienced.
The second topic we learned about was drug awareness. The Bellefontaine Police and Logan County Sheriff office work together to provide the necessary support to attempt to keep as many drugs out of our area as possible. Logan County sits between four major metropolitan areas, Columbus, Lima, Springfield, and Dayton. The drug task force has accepted that it is impossible to keep drugs out entirely especially with the limited amount of officers that can be devoted entirely to the issue but they work diligently to keep dealers from making Logan County their headquarters.
Matt and Junior were given the opportunity to look at drugs up close. They were shocked at what heroin and crack cocaine actually look like. Junior said that heroin looks just like the tar on the road and crack looks like the inside of drywall. We learned how people melt heroin and shoot it into their veins. The control this drug has on them is horrifying. Matt could not believe people would actually want to give themselves shots. He said he hates getting shots at the doctor’s office. It is definitely not something he wants to start doing!
The next speaker was Detective Scott Sebring. He talked about what he does for the police department. He provides the level of investigation assistance patrol officers are unable to give due to their other commitments. If a kidnapping or homicide occurs in Logan County he will definitely be working on it. During the class we were able to review a kidnapping and homicide that occurred in Logan County in the past. He went over the details of the case and helped the academy members understand the steps he took to find as much evidence as he could.
The final speaker of the evening was Sgt. Scott Marlow. He talked with us about identity fraud and taught us ways to keep our identities safe. He told us to never keep our social security numbers in our wallets. Matt said he would never do that! He gave us great tips to use in case we suspect our social security numbers have been stolen. He also taught us things we should do to make sure that we keep our risk of identity theft low. One of the things we can do is to contact one of the credit reporting companies every four months and get a free credit report. If we find an error on the report we can take steps to fix it. Junior said that was something he was going to do right away!
Next week we will learn about the crisis intervention team, Ohio’s liquor laws, fraud and scams.
Week four started off with a bang! We had a wonderful dinner donated by Six Hundred Downtown and talked with our classmates about the weather changes and the upcoming presentations. The first speaker was Logan County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Anspach and he discussed laser and radar speed detection. We even got to try the devices out inside the room and outside of the police department. Matt was really impressed by how heavy the laser detector was and loved using the detector to capture speeds. He found quite a few people with lead feet driving past the police department that evening. He even captured a speed of 37 in a 25 mile per hour zone.
After we returned to the training room we heard from Officer Doug Walters. He taught us the different tests officers use to determine whether a person is not able to drive a vehicle responsibly. He even had an intoxicated volunteer demonstrate the field sobriety tests. Matt and Junior both demonstrated pat down procedures on the volunteer and everyone that tried to find the hidden weapons missed a few weapons on the volunteer. He had over 15 weapons on his person! He even had them in his boots!
Next we heard from Officer Lapp regarding traffic stops. He explained that officers use traffic stops to help keep the community safe and provide opportunities to discover other crimes that may be occurring inside the vehicle. Traffic stops are dangerous for police officers because of all of the unknowns lurking inside the vehicle. We watched videos from previous traffic stops that highlighted the dangers officers face. Junior was astonished that people would try to shoot police officers. He could not understand why people do not just take their punishment when they do something wrong. “Do people not realize these officers have kids?”
Next Thursday our class will learn about drug awareness, criminal investigations, and Internet security/identity theft.
Bellefontaine Citizens Police Academy Entry 1, By Kelli Bader, Junior Baker and Matt Wildermuth
Dinner was provided by Vicarios! We enjoyed the pizza they provided and got down to business. Our first speaker of the night was Jan Rhoades from the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) in Logan County. The CIT is a group of people working in the mental health field that train first responders about mental health and how it affects people. Police officers learn different ways to approach people suffering from mental health symptoms. These approaches help calm these people and could avoid a tragic ending.
Next we heard from Agent Alanis from the Ohio Investigative Unit. The members of this Unit are responsible for many things. Most of us know about liquor law enforcement but the group is also trusted with investigating food stamp fraud especially when it includes allegations of store owner misuse or drugs, and illegal gambling. It was a very interesting training because most of us did not even know there was a unit responsible for investigating these matters. We all assumed that our local police, sheriff, and highway patrol took care of the majority of those crimes.
The end of the evening was presented by Officer Loehr. He talked with us about Fraud and Scams. We learned about ways we can prevent our identities from being stolen. We also learned what to do if we are the victim of this crime. The state of Ohio allows us to freeze our credit at any time for a nominal charge. If we want to have it unfrozen we request it to be unfrozen.
Matt enjoyed his night of learning. He could not believe that some people have been arrested for selling their cars for food stamps and Junior has read in the paper about store clerks getting in trouble for selling alcohol to people under the age of 21. He did not know that the store clerks could go to jail and that the owners of the stores could lose their license. Junior said stores really have to be on top of things and hire people that ask for State I.D.’s.
We had a potluck for dinner tonight. Matt brought meatballs and Junior brought macaroni salad. We all agreed that tonight’s meal was top notch. We had so much food left that we were able to share with the Dispatchers and Officers on duty. While we were eating we were taught about sovereign citizens. This is something not many of us had heard much about. Sovereign citizens are people legally living in the United States but have decided to believe that federal, state, and local governments operate illegally. They no longer believe that laws apply to them and some have come to this conclusion due to being tired of politicians and other high profile people not being held accountable for their crimes.
Typically the sovereign citizens living in Logan County are not extreme in their actions but in some areas of Ohio and other areas of the United States these citizens have killed officers when they are stopped for speeding. First responders are taught about sovereign citizens and should always be on guard because a seemingly innocent traffic stop could quickly become violent without any warning.
The remaining hours of the night were centered on crime scenes, evidence collection and preservation. We were taught by Detective Dwight Salyer from Bellefontaine Police Department and Detective Phil Bailey from the Logan County Sheriff Department. We reviewed a case from the past that Detective Bailey spent a lot of man hours on. Matt was amazed by all the details that go into processing evidence. He could not believe that only a few people are allowed in a crime scene once a murder has become evident. Detective Bailey stated that he spends a lot of time at the crime scene and the sheriff’s department once a crime of murder has been committed. He typically becomes the point person for those investigations.
Next we played an investigation game. Part of the class were assigned to be investigators and the other part of the class were involved in a murder. The investigators were taken out of the room and when they came back they each asked one member of the class questions about the crime. Most people were aware that two people came in to the classroom but they did not realize that they were armed. Matt and Junior were getting pictures during this time with other classmates and officers and missed the crime! It was a fun exercise. Junior did somehow pick the correct person out of the lineup. We are not sure how though but he said he must have been paying more attention than he thought.
At the end of the class we got to try our hand with recovering fingerprints. Junior did not know that surfaces that are wet have a better chance at collecting a fingerprint. He thought collecting fingerprints was the best part of the class today. We are looking forward to next week. We will learn about use of force, firearm safety, police firearms and less lethal weapons.
Week 8 began with a pasta dinner from the Bellefontaine Intermediate School Cooking and Catering class. The children made and served the delicious meal. Next we talked about the use of force that police officers may need to use in their line of duty. Sergeant Shields told us the Fourth Amendment outlined the standards for force for Police Officers. The Supreme Court case Tennessee vs. Garner held that under the Fourth Amendment, when an officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, deadly force can be used only if the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others. There have been other cases that outline use of force since that case. Matt thought it was silly that people do not stand still and put their hands up when a police officer is near them. Junior told Matt that people try to get out of trouble.
Next Officer Boy joined us to discuss firearm safety and less than lethal weapons. He is the officer that trains the other officers on using the different weapons at the police station. He showed us lots of different videos that helped us see just how dangerous police work can be. He showed us how officers can do their best to read the situations and attempt to keep things from turning violent but the reality is that police officers can be shot 4 times before they even remove their guns from their holsters. Police officers must be alert and ready at all times and they may even miss a deadly situation because criminals do not always seem to be criminals until a violent act has occurred.
Officer Boy showed us different tools police officers have at their disposal to attempt to control scary situations. Most officers carry a collapsible ASP baton or a Taser, OC/Pepper spray, bullet proof vests, and a service weapon. These items weigh an officer down and cause consider stress on their joints. Junior said he understands how the officers feel he does not even carry those weapons around every day and his joints hurt.
Bellefontaine Police Department also has a special weapons and tactics group that will cover the entire county if needed. Officer Boy is a part of that team. The SWAT team accesses multiple types of weapons in the situations they may be a part of. The weapons they carry are typically rifles, handguns, semi-automatic, external or concealable body armor, and ballistic shields.
Matt and Junior enjoyed learning about the different types of weapons and cannot wait to go through the firearms simulator and personal safety demonstration in week 11. Next week we will enjoy dinner from Café 212 and we will take a tour of the jail and watch a movie, Heroes behind the Badge.
Beginning the class this week was Officer Chris Marlow and his K-9 Unit, Arco. This duo offers a specialized service to the City of Bellefontaine and will assist other area law enforcement agencies when requested. Arco and Marlow specialize in the seeking portion of hide and seek and have found drugs, weapons and drug money in multiple places in Logan County including cars, businesses, houses and fields. Arco and Marlow have been through massive amounts of training and are required to spend a certain amount of work hours training each month. This keeps Arco and Marlow busy as they also maintain patrol schedules.
Next we learned about Bicycle Patrol from Officer Andy Loehr. He explained that Bicycle Patrol is a chance to foster positive community relations and may offer a faster officer response time in many cases. We also learned that community members typically see police officers on bicycles less threatening than in patrol cars. Police officers that ride bicycles are required to go through specialized training and learn how to navigate in tight spots, ride up and down staircases and through multiple types of obstacles and weather. Officers also learn how to protect themselves while in dangerous situations.
Finally we heard from Officer Andy Kennedy. He is the Dare Officer in Bellefontaine. He explained that Dare is a drug awareness and decision making program for the youth in Bellefontaine City Schools and Calvary Christian Schools. Dare was first taught in Bellefontaine beginning in 1989 but was cut from programming due to budget issues. The program returned to the Bellefontaine Police Department in 2012 and is taught to children from the time they enter kindergarten until they leave the 8th grade. Safety Town is also provided to the children in Bellefontaine and was one of the first cities to offer this as a program.
We were all very surprised to find ourselves excited for this week because most sane people are not excited to go to jail. Once we made it to the Logan County Jail the Citizens Police Academy members were split into 2 different groups led by Sheriff Andy Smith and the Logan County Jail’s Administrator, Greg Fitzpatrick. We saw the area that potential inmates are brought into at the beginning of their stay. This area was created to obtain their fingerprints, take their picture and obtain their personal information. Next to it are holding cells for the people that are not ready to be admitted to the jail. Once it is decided that the person is going to be staying at the jail for a period of time the inmate is led to a bathroom where he or she is deloused and will clean themselves so, nothing is transferred to other inmates when they enter the general population. Once the inmate is clean he or she will obtain shoes, uniforms, and hygiene items.
Matt and Junior both decided they wanted to see what life was like as an inmate and enjoyed the minute of being locked in a holding cell. While there Junior noticed and thought it was smart that the Sheriff’s department thought to put small drains in the floors of those rooms just in case someone had an accident. He said if he was in there in reality this might be needed!
Next on our tour we were led to the area where people have visitation with their family and friends and an area where inmates can meet with their attorney. Next we learned there are prisoners in the jail that are given jobs that allow them to have more freedom than the other inmates. These inmates do laundry and work in the kitchen. They are also able to work in the garden. We met a few of those inmates. We went to the kitchen and the 9-1-1 call center as well. The most fascinating place to be in the jail is the hub where the inmates and the jail are constantly supervised. The women and men were split into two different areas of the jail. Each section had a bathroom, areas to sleep, a kitchen area, small break room style cafeteria and a television. The ladies were watching television, chatting, getting ready for bed and eating items they purchased in the commissary. A lot of the men were playing cards, exercising, or watching television.
We were able to see all parts of the jail and given the reason why each part of the jail exists. For instance the enclosed garage attached to the gym is there to protect the inmates from the public and the areas available for attorneys to meet with their clients are also built to hold groups wishing to meet for prayer and therapy. Junior thought the kitchen was nice because everything was clean and orderly. Matt’s favorite part of the tour was visiting the Land of Oz. This area of the jail was definitely the brain of the operation. The person in charge of that room has the power to open and close all doors and keep people safe. We learned so much this week but one of the best things we learned was that the jail is being run in a financially thrifty manner and the department is always looking for ways to cut costs and improve care. Once we were done with the jail tour we watched a movie that made most of us cry. The movie was about officers that have given their lives for the people they serve and the families and friends they leave behind.
Week 12 - April 28
We enjoyed a meal from Wendy’s in Bellefontaine before heading to the Logan County Fish and Game. It was very good and quick! Once we arrived at the Fish and Game we lined up at the shooting range and were all given eye protection and ear protectors. Officer(s) Jason Boy, Mike Morgan, and Andy Kennedy showed us how to properly hold a gun and walked us through the steps of proper firearm safety.
Officer Dwight Salyers used his photography skills to slow down time and show us how amazing bullets look once they leave our guns. We were each given opportunities to shoot targets and receive assistance learning how to fix the issues we were experiencing. Both Junior and Matt did an amazing job. Matt enjoyed emptying his bullets quickly and Junior liked taking things slow.
Both Matt and Junior enjoyed shooting the AR-15 and the pistols. We did not participate in the dueling game but we enjoyed watching the seasoned gunslingers of our group. We enjoyed this week and were sad to see the Citizen’s Police Academy come to an end. Next week we will enjoy our graduation dinner at Café 212 and will start enjoying our duties as Graduates of the Citizens Police Academy. We plan to volunteer to help our officers as much as possible.
The week after we graduate Junior and Matt are going on an adventure to Washington D.C. to be a part of Police Week and will honor our nation’s fallen officers at the 28th candlelight vigil on May 13th. On Saturday, Junior and Matt will explore Washington D.C. and will finish the day by spending it at the Washington D.C. Nationals baseball game. The game is dedicated to the Fallen Officers of our nation and a portion of the funds raised through ticket sales goes to support Police Week. Finally Sunday they plan to attend the 35th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service and wreath laying service.
Week 11 - April 21
Simulator and defending yourself
Week 11 started off with a carry-in by the Alumni Citizens Police Academy members. It was exceptional. They told us about all the fun they have and invited us to join them in their group. Matt, Junior, and Kelli are all turning in their applications. Matt is really interested in helping with the parades in Bellefontaine and Junior wants to help with Safety Town. After our dinner most of the class went upstairs to work on defensive tactics with Rich Stephenson and his assistants. Two of the Citizens Police Academy members would be in the Officer Simulation training. Junior and Matt decided to pair up as Officer Baker and Officer Wildermuth during the simulation. They were each armed with a simulation gun and a simulation flashlight. The purpose of the drills was for Matt and Junior to go through issues police officers find themselves in on most shifts.
Matt loved the drill but said it was very difficult to know what the people in the simulation were going to do. Junior said at times he did not know how many shots he fired at suspects. Matt said being an officer is a hard job. To finish the simulation the staff from Clark State allowed Matt and Junior to practice their aim by shooting zombies. Matt and Junior agreed that this was the best part of the drill!
Next week we will meet at the Logan County Fish and Game and will have the opportunity to shoot guns and develop proper firearm skills.
Ride Along - April 16
We were excited to show up on Saturday, April 16th for our ride-a-long with Officer(s) Huffman, Loehr, and Simpson. We each rode as the passenger of an officer. Our first stop was at Heritage Court where the Police Vehicle was practically mauled by excited kids. They all wanted Officer Huffman’s Police card. They were excited and overjoyed to be near him. While we were there our first call came in due to a broken rear windshield at the Dollar General Store on East Columbus Avenue. Multiple witnesses were on the scene stating the window shattered without anyone hitting it. This happens at time due to pressure inside the car or small cracks that expand but we were not entirely certain this was the cause. At that time the only person we had not spoken to was a young boy so we drove around looking for him to see if he knew anything about the incident.
During this time Matt and Officer Simpson headed to the hospital to talk with a person that was in a vehicular crash. Officer Huffman and Kelli were called to a report of a dog fight and a dog bite situation. Due to the nature of the situation all three officers reported to the scene to assist. Officer Huffman took point on this altercation and Junior and Officer Loehr headed to the hospital to get a statement from the man that was bitten by a dog. Officer Huffman with the Bellefontaine Police Department Dispatcher’s assistance were able to find a spot at the Top of Ohio Pet Shelter for the dog and he transported the dog to the shelter. At this time Matt and Officer Simpson reported to a call for domestic violence. Once Officer Huffman and Kelli were done at the Top of Ohio Pet Shelter we returned to the Police Department because it was the end of Officer Huffman’s shift.
We met Matt and Officer Simpson as they were finishing their report from the Domestic Violence situation. At this point both officers were called to another Domestic Violence Situation. This situation ended up being over before we arrived. A man had reported that an unwanted man was in the apartment above his with a lady that lived there but once we arrived the people in the upstairs apartment were gone. The officers talked with the man and confirmed the situation was over. At that point we headed back to the station and met up with Officer Loehr and Junior.
Matt, Junior and Kelli were in awe of the evening. We spent 4 hours with the officers and it went by so fast. We talked with Dispatcher Tackett about our experience and while we were chatting about our night we came across an unfilled need the Police Officers have in Bellefontaine. They need help keeping their hands clean since they spend most of their time outside of the department. We decided we were going to challenge our friends in the Aktion club to take up a collection of baby wipes and hand sanitizer we could deliver to the officers of the Bellefontaine Police Department. Junior said, “Why stop there, we can take them to the Sherriff Deputies and the State Highway Patrol.” We were all very excited to find a way to help our local law enforcement!
We were amazed at how well the officers and dispatchers worked together. It was evident these officers and dispatcher have each other’s backs. We are honored to have them working to keep us safe every day.
Calendar of Events |