Citizens Academy to give insight into police officer duties

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Interested individuals must apply by May 25


By Correne Martin


If you’ve ever wanted to step into a police officer’s shoes and experience the work behind the badge, the opportunity will present itself this summer thanks to a new program called the Citizens Academy, hosted by the Prairie du Chien Police Department. Regular citizens or business owners of the city, 21 years and older, may apply to be among six individuals who go through the 10-week academy, which begins June 25 and will be held weekly, on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. Applications can be picked up at Prairie du Chien City Hall or at the police department dispatch center.


‘There will be a soft background check and an interview process,” Police Chief Chad Abram said.


Applications are due by Monday, May 25 to city hall or the police department. Once they’re gathered, an ethical leadership board made up of officers, council members, police and fire commission members, and citizens will select potential candidates and conduct interviews on Friday, June 5. By Monday, June 8, those accepted into the academy will be notified. The six recruits will receive a T-shirt and challenge coin upon completion, which is free to participants. The anticipated cost to the police department will be the minimal expense of T-shirts.


“This has been an idea of mine since I took over as chief. The goal is to give citizens a chance to see what police officers do,” Abram stated. 


“It’s not all citation writing and driving around. There’s a lot more to this job than people understand,” added Officer Ashley Erickson, academy organizer. “The Citizens Academy will show the recruits the type of training we go through in the police academy. They’ll drive a squad car and shoot weapons. They’ll get to see what we do for OWI and domestic arrests; we have to make sure our reports are filed and to the district attorney’s office on time. There’ll be a mock crime scene and a mock accident and they’ll need to go through and figure out what happened and file the paperwork.”


Additionally, participants will tour the police department, courthouse, jail and dispatch; use the squad car computers; witness taser and K-9 demonstrations; experience defense and arrest tactics; conduct field sobriety tests on individuals who’ve been drinking; and delve into simulated investigations. There will be instruction on traffic codes and crashes, vehicle contacts, felony stops, pursuit policy, firearms tactics, child and elder abuse, narcotics in the local community, vehicle searches, and the officer hiring process as well. Upon graduation, recruits will be eligible to apply for a concealed carry permit, since they will have gone through certified firearms instruction. 


Recruits, who will wear a duty belt during classes and must be in good physical condition, will meet and learn from these instructors: Chief Abram, Lieutenant Terry Sprosty, Sergeant Kyle Teynor, Detective Stacy Polodna and Officers Ashley and Max Erickson, Tony Berg, Josh Hemmer, Tara Henry, Casey Cox, and Park Ranger (former state trooper) John Moore. They will also hear from the circuit court judge, municipal court judge, district attorney, city attorney and mayor.


“We’ll explain how we all work and co-exist together,” Erickson said. 


“Another objective of the academy is to get the community involved. We want to build bridges with the community and not fences,” Abram noted. “We’re police officers but we’re also citizens who want to continue to grow relationships with the people in the city we serve.”


At the conclusion of the Citizens Academy, there will be an awards banquet on Friday, Aug. 28, where challenge coins and other honors will be presented.


Challenge coins are a distinguished token that the officers of the Prairie du Chien Police Department helped design and create in recent years. Inscribed with the core values of “protect, respect, integrity, duty and empathy (PRIDE),” the double-sided coins are awarded to officers and citizens at large for going above and beyond the call of duty. 


“The coins show a brotherhood, that you’re part of a team,” Abram said. “They show that our officers are committed to the community. And we want to share that with our community members.”


The Citizens Academy has been modeled after existing programs in the cities of Onalaska, La Crosse, Rhinelander and Tomah. It is hoped that this can become a yearly program, with the potential for a greater number of recruits after this inaugural year. With questions, contact the Prairie du Chien Police Department at 326-2421.

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