Michael Brown started his birthday off with a big breakfast and ended it with a four-hour ridealong with a Puyallup Police officer.
“If I was younger, I would become a police officer,” said Brown, 54, who works in information technology at Boeing. “I work behind a desk that doesn’t move; their desk has four wheels.”
Brown, who lives in Puyallup, is one of 17 people who have taken part in the relaunch of the police department’s Citizen’s Academy, which started a 14-session, 12-week course last October.
“We want students to get a good rounded overview of what the police department does, how we operate the different units within the department, and how we work with the community to keep it safe,” said Lisa Isaacs, the department’s crime prevention coordinator.
Brown saw the announcement of the academy on the department’s Facebook page.
“I thought, ‘Wow, let’s give it a shot,’ ” Brown said. “It’s nice to see what happens on the other side of the badge. I’ve been pulled over a few times in my lifetime, and I’ve only seen one side.”
Charlotte Frederking, a retired professional, has been in the Volunteer in Police Services program for 2 1/2 years. Isaacs said the department encourages those in the program to take part in the academy so they can gain a better understanding of what officers do.
“I’ve lived in Puyallup for 25 years and knew nothing about the police department,” Frederking said.
Isaacs said sessions are mostly in the evenings, with the exception of a few classes on Saturday, to allow for more daylight hours.
Activities include visiting the 9-1-1 call center, touring the jail and municipal court, visiting with the department chaplain, receiving a K-9 orientation and demonstration, and completing a four-hour ridealong during an officer’s patrol.
Puyallup Police Chief Bryan Jeter said it’s important that citizens have an opportunity to interact with the department in a positive light.
“They get to ask us questions on why we do what we do,” Jeter said. “It improves relationships and transparency.”
Jeter said something different the department incorporated into the academy this time around is more hands-on activities.
“Before, it was more lecture-based,” Jeter said. “I’ve been very pleased with the enthusiasm of the class. It’s been a very good experience.”
Some of the new activities include shoot/no-shoot decision training, driving a police car through a slow-speed course, or driving the miniature electric car with and without drunk goggles through a parking lot cone course.
Cody Pollock, 25, is an academy student who is interested in becoming an officer. He recently applied for the reserves at the Fife Police Department.
“This gets my foot in the door,” Pollock said. “I get to see if it’s something I really want to do.”
Students will graduate Jan. 15, and each will receive a graduation and participation certificate. The next academy session will start in the spring.
To register for the Citizen’s Academy, applicants must be 18 or older. There is no cost. A thorough background check is performed on all applicants. Priority seating is given to Puyallup residents and is on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply, call Lisa Isaacs at 253-841-5531 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.