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Community members complete 2018 NRPD Citizens Academy

The 2018 New Richmond Police Department Citizens Academy participants are pictured. (Back row, from left) Chief Craig Yehlik, Reinaldo Rivera, Brianna Lauer, Richard McNitt, Mark Flatten, Sgt. Jacob Sather; (front row) Leah Shafer, Hannah Lange, Heather Bjorne, Tara Nachtigal, Lisa Olien and Aimee Flatten. Sarah Kobernick is not pictured. Photo courtesy of New Richmond Police Department

On Jan. 25, 12 community members started their six-session journey through the New Richmond Police Department Citizens Academy.

"The Citizens Academy is designed to reach out to members of our community and invite them to learn more about the New Richmond Police Department," said Sgt. Jacob Sather. "Academy classes are taught by officers of the New Richmond Police Department, who will be open, honest and candid about their duties and experiences as a law enforcement officer. Class discussion will be encouraged. Classroom lectures will be kept to a minimum, in order to maximize 'hands on' practical exercises."

According to Sather, the Citizens Academy began in 2013 and has run every year since, except in 2015. In order to take part in the Citizens Academy, those interested must live or work in New Richmond and complete an application. The police department then conducts a background check to make sure there are no concerns with those interested.

"Since I am relatively new to New Richmond, I was very interested in learning about the NRPD and to have an opportunity to meet the men and women who patrol the streets of New Richmond," said Wayne A. Ekblad, who moved to New Richmond in August 2016. "Additionally, I hoped to gain some insight concerning the issues these officers face and the challenges they must overcome. Finally, I wanted to get a better sense of the overall safety of the community --- specifically with regard to the number and types of crimes being committed, the amount of drug and narcotic activity, etc."

From 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday nights from Jan. 25-March 8, the 12 participants learned about topics such as: police department operations and patrol operations; crime scene investigations and evidence collection; drug awareness; defense and arrest tactics (DAAT); problem oriented policing; constitutional law; high risk traffic stops and building searching; firearms; taser; pepper spray and courtroom testimony.

"The goal of the Citizens Academy is to provide graduates with a working knowledge of the New Richmond Police Department, and to strengthen community support and involvement with the New Richmond Police Department," said Sather. "Most have an interest in law enforcement and in general want to gain knowledge of their local law enforcement. They also gain knowledge of what local LE does and how much goes unnoticed and is not seen on a day-to-day basis to keep the community safe. This course also gives them the knowledge on how to be another set of eyes and ears for the NRPD and how to be good witnesses if needed."

According to Sather, those who complete the Citizens Academy can volunteer for activates the NRPD hosts and assist with parades, K9 fundraising and events and wherever else volunteer services can be utilized.

"I would have to say that the best part of the course was the up-close and personal interaction with Chief Yehlik and the fine officers of the NRPD. These ladies and gentlemen went out of their way to make us 'civilians' feel welcome and valued," Ekblad said. "This was way more than a lecture or Powerpoint presentation as we were given the opportunity to (1) get behind the wheel of an NRPD cruiser to do a mock traffic stop (conducted, of course, in the confines of the NRPD parking lot); (2) take fingerprints; (3) use a police baton; (4) handcuff a suspect; and (5) participate in an active shooter simulation. Additionally, we were afforded the opportunity to do a ride-along with an NRPD officer on patrol."

Those interested in taking part in next year's Citizens Academy course can submit an application to NRPD. Recruitment will begin this summer for the 2019 course, which will begin in January.

"Every year we have had great attendance and participation with scenarios. The classes are scheduled to go until 8:30 p.m. and many nights no one wants to leave and it's well after 9 p.m. when the class is wrapped up as there are good questions and participation. Surprisingly no one has volunteered to get tased yet so maybe next year," Sather said.

Although it may sound cliché, Ekblad feels like the biggest thing he learned from the Citizens Academy was there is more to being a police officer than what you see on TV.

"My other big takeaway was that, even in a small town like New Richmond, the work of a police officer can be very stressful," Ekblad said. "And putting on a citizens academy like the one I attended is not something that the NRPD is required to do. Instead, it is done as a form of community outreach. Moreover, the officers who conducted the various sessions of the citizens academy were volunteers who were giving up their off-time to be with us. I think it says an awful lot about the caliber of the men and women of the NRPD that they would be willing to devote their personal time to such a cause."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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