by Sue Austreng
Aiming to establish a close, trusting relationship with people who live and work in Elk River, Police Department personnel put out a call inviting them to attend a citizens academy.
The series of classes gives participants an inside look at the department and educates them about the ins and outs of what it takes to protect and serve the community.
Linda Canton, Elk River crime prevention specialist and facilitator of the winter 2017 academy, said the Police Department had offered citizens academy sessions in the past, but due to personnel changes and other factors, there hadn’t been an academy offered for Elk River in the past 10 or 15 years.
“We love our jobs. We love this community and we want help folks have a better understanding of what law enforcement is, what our role is. Especially with what’s been going on recently around the country, we want them to know we are here for them no matter what the call is. So we thought we’d try another citizens academy,” Canton said.
Twenty people applied to attend the winter citizens academy session. To keep the sessions small and allow for better interaction, only 12 people were selected to attend.
Participants represent a broad spectrum of the Elk River community, ranging in age from the early 20s to retirement. Some have lived in Elk River only a few months, while others are lifelong residents. All seemed eager to learn more about law enforcement, to gain a better understanding of what takes place behind the scenes and to get to know the police officers who serve the community.
“I want to learn more about the police and the day-to-day operations, gain a bigger respect for law enforcement,” said Wade Lovelette, who has lived in Elk River for 36 years. “I also think this is a way for the community to be more involved in keeping the community safe.”
The winter 2017 academy began Feb. 8 and runs through March 29, meeting once each week for 2 1/2 hours. During those sessions, active members of the Elk River Police
Department offer participants a chance to learn about various divisions of the department; learn how officers respond to calls, collect and process evidence, and analyze crime scenes; and hear about the training and education involved in becoming a police officer.
Hands-on experience is also offered during academy sessions. During the March 1 session, participants met Elk River’s police dog Zeus, a 9-year-old German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix who has served Elk River his entire working life. Also that night, citizens academy enrollees were invited to take a look at a collection of specialized gear used by the Police Department’s SWAT team.
Other hands-on experiences offered during the winter 2017 academy include a Shoot, Don’t Shoot exercise and an opportunity to fire a department-issued handgun in the firing range.
Finally, before graduating from the academy, participants ride along with officers on duty patrolling the streets of Elk River.
“We hope that no matter what their understanding of law enforcement was before the academy, that (participating in the citizens academy) builds on that understanding,” Canton said. “Here, they get to see the inside working of the Police Department, they get to meet officers and eventually they get to be our eyes and ears in the community.”
Canton reports that, in the future, the department hopes to offer fall and winter citizens academy sessions each year.
To learn more about Elk River’s citizens academy, email Canton at [email protected] or call 763-635-1265.