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  1. 1. By Robyn L. Kirsch PROGRESS STAFF WRITER The O’Fallon Police Department (OPD) had its largest Citizen Academy class of 27 individuals graduate from its eight- week program Tuesday, Oct. 28. “It’s programs like these that keep O’Fallon spe- cial,” OPD Chief Eric Van Hook said. “Captain Mark Berry initiated this pro- gram only three years ago with a handful of partici- pants and now look around you and just see how its flourished.” A standing ovation from a room full of residents, community members, city officials and officers fol- lowed Chief Van Hook’s generous words of Capt. Berry. “I already have seven people lined up in the wings for next year’s ses- sion IV, so as you can see how fast things move through the grapevine, I don’t even think I’ll have to advertise it next year, and that’s the beauty of educa- tional community pro- grams like these,” Berry said. Berry pointed out to the graduates in the audience that with this diploma cer- tificate, graduates, “will be called upon for varying volunteer opportunities like the upcoming Breakfast with Santa Claus hosted at Amelia Carriel Junior High School, so wear your OPD Citizen Academy (cour- tesy) polos to events you can help out with so people can identify you.” Berry pointed out other departments in Fairview Heights, Collinsville and St. Louis have their own Citizen Academies offered. “If this thing continues to garner attention and grow legs, so to speak, maybe additional depart- ments will join in and (spearhead) their own,” Berry added with a chuck- le. The class this year had three O’Fallon aldermen participate: Jerry Mouser, of Ward III, Jerry Albrecht, of Ward II, and Herbert Roach, of Ward IV. Mouser said, “This class has been very cool, and really was such a very informative and exciting time—I’m very impressed with O’Fallon’s Police offi- cers and how professional they are.” Albrecht said his favorite part of the academy was being able to ride along with an officer for a whole shift. “There were a variety of instances and calls but going along and witnessing all I did just simply con- firmed what I already thought about the officers of the OPD—they demon- strate their professionalism time and time again,” Albrecht said. “Seeing the behind the scenes was very neat and Capt. Berry told us going in that it’s all about perspective, and it’s so true.” According to Roach, the virtual reality-based train- ing with real-to-life scenar- ios and target shooting training equipment called PRISM was his favorite element of the academy training. PRISM is owned partial- ly by the Southwestern Illinois College Police Academy and also by the Southern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission (SILEC), which is a state funded training organiza- tion for law enforcement. “Being beholden to time when an important deci- sion needs to be made—the quickness that is demanded in a stressful moment full of distractions like inno- cent bystanders or victims was fascinating to me,” Roach said. “We ought to be proud that O’Fallon has such a great team of people protecting us, and not to mention the facilities, training and equipment O’Fallon has at its disposal is amazing.” Many who have miscon- ceptions about the manner police officials conduct their business should con- sider taking the course, Roach said. “If they could see the efforts and the controls the police have put in place to ensure they don’t go over the line and everyone stays safe, then I think they’d have a much better under- standing of what they do and just how much is demanded of them. I mean there’s a lot more prepara- tion for these guys before they go out on the street is even more extensive than I initially thought.” According to Van Hook, this year’s session was a challenge for the depart- ment to keep up with sim- ply because the class limi- tation was originally set at 20 students. “We were pretty much topped out with 27, espe- cially with some of the important hands on practi- cals and activities like the gun range safety course and the police officer ride alongs, but we managed very well.” Van Hook said. “Berry did a great job facil- itating still a very personal and interactive, in depth experience for the students all the while being respect- ful and mindful of their time in the academy.” Van Hook went on to explain that this year’s ses- sion included a new ele- ment—fire safety. “Fire Chief Brent Saunders held a presenta- tion on Fire Safety and he did an outstanding job giv- ing the class an insider’s view into the Fire Department and all they do,” Van Hook said. “We’re aiming to come full circle with the entire Public Safety Department theme, not just Police and Emergency Medical Services we provide here.” “This Academy provides a great opportunity for our citizens to learn more about law enforcement and our Police Department,” said Mayor Gary Graham. “I encourage you to get your application in early as the spots will fill up quickly.” The Academy is taught by officers from the O’Fallon Police Department and guest speakers from other agen- cies. This academy is open to citizens of O’Fallon and persons working in the O’Fallon area. There will be a tax deductible $25 course fee to the partici- pants that will be donated to “The BACKSTOP- PERS, Inc.” The Academy is designed to give partici- pants a realistic view of police work by providing instruction and education on different aspects of law enforcement. Academy classes were from 6-9 p.m. Tuesday evenings from September through October in the OPD Community Room at 285 N. Seven Hills Rd. Participants are intro- duced to the structure of the Police Department as well as basic information that all police officers must know to perform their jobs. Topics included, but were not limited to, patrol tactics and training, general inves- tigations, firearms, gun safety, fire safety, response to resistance, CPR and AED training. Due to the nature of the course and curriculum, individuals with prior felony and/or certain mis- demeanor charges/convic- tions are declined. The OPD will accept next year’s participant applica- tions next summer in July 2015. Interested persons are encouraged to come to the O’Fallon Police Department to pick up an application or print a copy from their website: www.ofallon.org/citizens- police-academy rkirsch@bnd.com O’FALLON PROGRESS NEWS THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2014PAGE A10
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