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Citizens’ Police Academy strengthens relationship between police, residents

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: October 19, 2016

Photo courtesy of Chesterfield Township Police Department Chesterfield Township Police Chief Brad Kersten (at right) and Sgt. Tiffany Krul (left), who organized and oversaw the inaugural Citizens Police Academy, take a moment to pose with participants.

Photo courtesy of Chesterfield Township Police Department
Chesterfield Township Police Chief Brad Kersten (at right) and Sgt. Tiffany Krul (left), who organized and oversaw the inaugural Citizens Police Academy, take a moment to pose with participants.

— By Jennifer Gomori with excerpts from The Voice

The Chesterfield Township Police Department is inviting residents and business owners to take a look into the inner workings of the department as a method of enhancing community relations.

The inaugural Citizens’ Police Academy was held this spring. Designed to provide hands-on experience in law enforcement, the Citizens’ Police Academy aims to engage citizens and improve communication between the department and township residents.

“We just utilized it to bring the police into our community. It was an overwhelming success,” Police Chief Brad Kersten said. “We were only planning to run it once a year. Now it’s twice a year for the next three years because of the positive feedback we got from homeowners and business owners. They referred it to their neighbors and other friends in their circles and we got an overwhelming response for another section.”

The eight-week program ended the first week of May. Participants met once a week for three and a half hours with a graduation ceremony the last week of the program. The next free Academy is being planned tentatively for fall and is open to Chesterfield Township residents and business owners ages 18 and older. About 20 citizens will be selected to participate.

“It was a cross photo of the community we live in. We had young kids who were criminal justice students. We had senior citizens who just wanted to learn more about the police department functions and operations,” Kersten said of the initial Academy. “We selected them based on their availability to come into the station on the nights we were holding training.”

Academy participants gain experience in a variety of topics, including accident investigation, crime scene preservation and processing, OWI detection, mock traffic stops, handcuffing, laws of arrest, and use of force. Voluntary ride-alongs will also be offered.

“We used it as a format to inform the public about what we do and how the skills are applied in the community,” Kersten said. “We told them about the job functions and some of the skills necessary for special divisions.”

The program benefits home and business owners alike in deterring crimes. “For the retirees that stayed at home a lot, we made them aware of crimes that occur in the residential section and what they could do to assist us in investigations or apprehensions in the number of criminals we come across,” Kersten said. “For business owners, it was to inform them how they could better protect their business — what they need to be aware of.”

“The course is designed to familiarize the participants with the daily tasks of a police officer and how an incident evolves from the call for service to the closing and prosecution of a case,” Lt. Kenneth Franks wrote in a recent memo to the chief.

In addition to focusing on the fundamentals of law enforcement, the academy highlights the department’s history, organizational structure and goals. “The goal of the academy is to instill an even greater sense of pride and care for our community and residents,” Kersten wrote in a recent letter to township officials.

Classes, taught by officers from the department, take place at the police station, with occasional off-site classes held at the Macomb Police Academy. Special guests also instruct the Academy.

“It was minimal cost to the department,” he said. “The Officers mainly volunteered their time. We had experts from local attorneys and prosecutors that donated their time too.”

Kersten has been working to boost the department’s efforts in community policing since officially becoming chief last May. The police department invites the community to the station each spring for its annual open house and recently put School Liaison Officer Amanda DePape into the five Anchor Bay schools in the township. This position hasn’t existed in nearly a decade.

“We just reinitiated it this year. It’s a key component with our resources that we can draw from,” Kersten said. “You can influence attitudes with the children and the parents and it reflects the police department and police officer in a positive light. It also helps us mitigate some juvenile contacts.”

They just brought back bicycle patrols this summer with a focus on parks, housing complexes and high volume call areas. “We’ve half-staffed it this summer with plans to expand it next summer,” Kersten said. “It’s just another avenue of enforcement and positive community contacts.”

Thanks to the community’s help, Kersten said the department was recently able to make arrests in a handful of high-profile crimes after posting photos of suspects on its Facebook page. “The robbery at the Meijer gas station – within two hours, (the suspect) was identified by Facebook posting,” he said. “That community involvement is what’s going to make us successful.”

The idea for the Citizens’ Police Academy partially stems from a report on the township’s police operations released in March 2014 by the International City/County Management Association, officials said. The report included several recommendations for efficiently providing police services to citizens. Kersten said they also looked at similar programs in Troy and Port Huron when planning the program.

Applications for the Citizens’ Police Academy can be picked up at the police station or online at chesterfieldpolice.org. Participants cannot have any felony or misdemeanor convictions within the past four years, and all applicants will be subject to a background investigation and asked to sign a liability waiver.

Chesterfield Township Police Department is located at 46525 Continental Drive, off of 21 Mile Road near Interstate 94. For more information, contact Sgt. Tiffany Krul at (586) 949-4722 or [email protected]

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