GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department is realizing an unintended but welcome consequence of its Citizen Police Academy.
Twice over the last several years, program participants have decided to become employees of GRPD.
The Citizen Police Academy started in the late 1990s. At least one class of about 25 to 30 people takes the course each year; all the participants live or work in Grand Rapids.
Anita Elmer did it in 2017 and shortly thereafter got a job with GRPD. She now serves as a records clerk and assists the public at the department’s service windows in the main lobby.
“I really enjoy it,” Elmer told News 8 said of working for GRPD.
She said her experience in the academy helped her to better understand how police operate and inspired her to want to enlighten others about the work officers do.
“Know that they’re human and they want to be safe,” Elmer said. “They want to help you but they want to go home to their families, too.”
In 2006, Dawn Campbell went through the academy. She now serves the department as a 911 dispatcher.
The Citizens Police Academy consists of 10 sessions that convene over the course of 10 weeks. Participants meet department leadership and go on ride-alongs with officers. They learn about everything from how Internal Affairs handles investigations to how officers are trained when it comes to use of force.
“They get an intimate look behind the scenes, a peek behind the curtain,” GRPD Lt. Mark Ostapowicz told News 8. “Most people really don’t know what real police work is — why we do what we do, how we do what we do.”
The department has closed registration for its 2019 session, which starts in September. Anyone who applies online will be considered for the next course, which will likely be next fall though another may be added in the spring.
“This is your police department. This is how we serve you,” Ostapowicz said. “This is how we do things. If you want to learn about us, apply for the academy.”