Citizens were allowed past the doors of the lobby in the Bloomington Police Department on Tuesday night.
The group of nearly 30 people were all there for the same reason – BPD’s annual Citizens Police Academy.
Tuesday night marked the start of the free, 11-week program where BPD officers invite citizens into the world of law enforcement. The group will meet for two and a half hours each Tuesday until graduation from the academy Nov. 19.
BPD Chief Michael Diekhoff said the program is geared toward the curiosity of citizens and is adjusted each year to better suit their interests.
“Every year this program is a little bit different based on recommendations,” Diekhoff said.
This year’s academy schedule includes lessons on topics such as firearms training, hostage negotiation and narcotics investigations.
The program gives citizens an introduction to BPD’s German Shepherd K-9, Ike. Participants are also offered the opportunity to participate in a patrol ridealong.
“The world looks a whole lot different from the front of a police car,” Capt. Scott Oldham said.
People chose to participate in the academy for a number of reasons. Some were intrigued by the idea of learning more about cops and law enforcement, while others chose to take part in the program to help their career path.
Many of the participants were IU students. Their majors included criminal justice and their career aspirations consisted of becoming a police officer.
“This is great because we look at you all as potential recruits,” Diekhoff said.
IU senior Caroline Claffy is taking part in the academy because her second major is criminal justice. Her first major is psychology.
“I just thought it would be a really good experience to get my foot in the door,” Claffy said. “Living in Bloomington, I thought it would be really fun to see what the police do around here in the environment I’m living in.”
Oldham led the first week of the academy. He taught about the history of BPD and explained the different divisions and specialized units within the police department.
Oldham explained the police uniform to the students, showing them the different types of body armor, weapons on his police duty belt and body camera on his chest. He said the total value of exterior equipment police officers wear is around $5,000.
Oldham also talked about the physical and psychological demands of the job. He said most police officers will have many injuries if they have been working for 20-30 years.
“This is not an easy job,” Oldham said. “It’s not for the faint of heart.”
After Oldham’s presentation, the participants were taken on a tour of the BPD facility. Citizens were able to see the detective offices, evidence packaging area and evidence lockers and room in the basement.
Next to the evidence packaging area were many teddy bears and blankets wrapped in plastic. Senior Police Officer Kevin Frank said those items are kept in police vehicles and given to victims of incidents such as car crashes and fires.
On the main level of the station, the participants were shown the operating while intoxicated room where those suspected of drunk driving are taken for testing. The room features a breathalyzer and a line of tape on the floor for sobriety tests.
The students were also shown the inside of a holding room, featuring a pair of handcuffs chained to the wall.
After the tour, the last stop of the night was the parking lot behind BPD. Officers showed participants the inside of a police car, from the hard plastic seats in the back to the light and sound buttons in the front.
The group will meet again next Tuesday to cover the topics of police social work and operating while intoxicated enforcement.
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