NRPD completes first Citizens Police Academy
The New Richmond Police Department Citizens Academy — a nine-week class designed to offer residents a behind-the-scenes peek at daily police work — graduated its class on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
The 10-member class was scheduled to meet every Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. beginning on Sept. 25, but participants were so enthusiastic about the class content that they often stayed beyond 9 or 9:30 p.m. to ask additional questions and continue discussions of what they learned, according to Detective Craig Yehlik.
“I think it went fantastic,” Yehlik said. “I really enjoyed getting to know such a diverse group from within the community. It was a lot of fun. I thought everybody was really interactive, and asked good questions. That’s what it was about was trying to answer questions the community has about what we do.”
Among the topics covered in the class were patrol procedures, evidence collection and preservation, drugs, defense and arrest tactics, search and seizure application, high-risk stops and active shooter training.
The class culminated with an active shooter scenario in which participants, armed with a handgun that shoots paint pellets, had to confront a dangerous subject.
“To put the academy under a stressful situation with limited training, so to speak, that for me was fun to kind of see how the different people reacted to it with nervousness even though they knew it was a scenario and no one was going to get hurt,” Yehlik said. “Some people got very stressed out over it.”
Ali Saliny, a social studies teacher at New Richmond High School, said she joined the academy to learn more about law enforcement to enhance her civics course.
“I can’t believe how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve applied to our classes,” Saliny said. “It has given me a lot to apply to my classroom that’s relevant to the students, because it’s here in New Richmond.”
Saliny’s fellow social studies teacher Mandi Erickson also participated in the academy, and she also plans to incorporate its lessons into her teaching.
“I will be able to use so much of what we learned in my psychology and sociology classes and plan to follow up with [New Richmond Police] Chief [Mark] Samelstad about the potential of creating a student-appropriate version of this training,” Erickson said.
Several of the academy participants also chose to also take part in the department’s ride-along program. For ride-alongs, a rider is paired with an officer for an entire patrol shift, or a shorter period of time. Riders get to experience what it’s like for officers when they respond to calls from dispatch and react to situations they observe all around the city.
“I see the whole community through a different lens now that I’ve had the ride-along experience and have seen the realities of patrol officers first hand,” Erickson said.
Few people — other than suspects and victims — interact with the police department on a regular basis. It may be difficult for the average person to grasp what an officer does other than sit in a car and write an occasional speeding ticket. One of the things that surprised many academy participants was the variety and volume of calls New Richmond officers respond to.
“It was definitely eye-opening to see a glimpse into the many things that our police department in New Richmond does,” Saliny said. “I had no idea they take care of and address as many issues as they do. It’s so much more than traffic stops. It’s house calls, it’s car accidents, it’s dealing with people of all ages — I guess I just didn’t realize how many calls they respond to in a day, whether it’s an elderly woman who has fallen, or something happening at a local business. I find so much comfort knowing how close they are to everyone and everything in the city.”
Samelstad and his officers will evaluate how the first offering of the Citizens Police Academy went before deciding which adjustments to make before offering it again next year.
Disclosure: The writer of this article was a member of the New Richmond Police Department Citizens Academy class.