Juneau residents learn how police department works

Eight-week program helps give citizens insight into law enforcement

Posted: Thursday, March 04, 2004

Police work isn't like you see on television.

Reggie Cruz said his Tuesday nights this year have taught him that in Juneau "it's way different."

Saying he remains a big fan of "Monk" and "Law and Order," he learned what Juneau police are really like in the community's first Citizens Police Academy.

Tuesday night, 17 Juneau residents completed the eight-week program, three hours on each of the last eight Tuesdays. They talked to officers about what they do and, through staged exercises outside the station, got to see what things like sobriety tests and traffic stops were like.

"They did a sobriety test on me," Karen Lawfer said.

She said she has worked with the police through the Juneau SAFE Kids coalition, but in the academy she got to learn that Juneau officers have to multi-task.

An officer working on the bike patrol can also be on the bomb squad, she said.

Before shaking hands with the graduates, Juneau Police Chief Richard Gummow told them they would be the department's ambassadors. "We ask you to reach out to all segments of the community, at all levels," he said.

Assistant Chief Greg Browning said the academy was looking for a cross-section of the adult community.

"There were a lot of good questions," he said. "They weren't shy about asking them."

One participant said the academy may have directed her into a new career where she could work with police.

Channcie Bean, an escrow officer at a mortgage office, said she found she enjoyed investigating traffic accidents.

When participants were being called up for their certificates and T-shirts, she was singled out as the only one who finished the entire accident report in triplicate.

She said she was fascinated with the way officers reconstruct accidents. "I could have spent hours doing it."

Bean left the academy saying she was looking for a school to train to be a private accident investigator who works with insurance companies.

She's had her frustrations with police, she said.

"They're never there when you want them to be, and they're always there when you don't want them to be," she said. "Now I totally feel different about the cops."

In a police department, she said, "I would enjoy being a detective. But I wouldn't want to pack a gun." She said the best part of the job is "putting the pieces together."

Browning commended the work that Chris Ullrich, a training specialist with the department, did to put on the academy. It is a big enough job that some departments put a lieutenant in charge, he added.

The first citizens academy won't be the last, Browning said. He is looking to offer a class for people younger than 18 and for ways to improve the citizens academy in 2005.

"Next year we're going to do it later," Browning said. "January is not the ideal time to do (simulated) felony stops."

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