By Stephen Gruber-Miller
Grinnell students are learning what it’s like to be a cop this spring in an eight-week program called the Citizens Police Academy (CPA).
The program is run by the Grinnell Police Department and has existed for about four years as a means to give the community a better perspective of what the duties of police officers are like.
This is the first time the CPA has been open to college students. Crime Prevention Officer Rod See went to the Wellness Fair at the College in February to advertise the program to students.
“The officers were really nice and it looked cool,” said Ellen Finnegan ’13, as to why she decided to take the course.
There are currently 13 students enrolled in the class, as well as three community members. Around a dozen students are on a waiting list for the next session of the course, which will be offered in the fall.
“What I want from this is the community to come together with the College and the police department,” See said.
He hopes to equalize community and College participation in the next CPA session, but wanted to give all interested seniors the chance to experience the program before they graduate.
The CPA touches on a wide range of topics that are central to the job of a police officer including drug and criminal investigations, defensive tactics, police protocol regarding the use of force and criminal law. Students even havd the opportunity to receive firearms training and accompany a police officer on a ride-along.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said Sam Mulopulos ’14, one of the students in the course. “I’m like a five year old kid. I love firefighters. I love police officers. They get to save people’s lives.”
Mulopulos was especially interested in the session on the use of force, during which the class had the option of being tased and pepper sprayed, as officers are required to be before they are allowed to carry Tasers or pepper spray.
“The idea is that you can’t carry something with you [when] you don’t necessarily know what it feels like,” Mulopulos said. “You pepper spray someone, you have to be able to sympathize with them to know what they’re going through.”
“The Taser was pleasant compared to being pepper sprayed,” he added.
Robert Logan ’13 and Jack Menner ’13 were also sprayed.
“In the moment you’re like ‘why the hell would I ever do something like this?’” Mulopulos said. “But after it I’m like ‘Eh, I got a good story now. It was worth it.’”
“They all said it was the worst thing they ever experienced,” Finnegan said, “but they were glad they did it.”
Firearms training was a large draw for Finnegan, who had never shot a gun before.
“Just the fact that the officers were willing to allow us to shoot was really shocking,” she said.
The class was given an hour of training and then taken to the water treatment facility where the officers train.
See mentioned that firearms are part of the daily lives of police officers and he was glad the participants could understand more of what they do.
“It just shows them where we’re coming from,” he said.
Finnegan was glad for the new experience.
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” she said. “I’ve only ever played video games and stuff. I’ve never shot anything until last night, but it was really fun. All the officers are great.”
All the students in the CPA are required to schedule a four-hour ride-along session with an officer. They are not allowed to leave the car, but they see everything the officer sees on patrol.
“The whole premise of the program is to show them there are things that happen in Grinnell,” See said, noting that he decided to become an officer after doing a ride-along.
The class gives participants the chance to ask about many things, such as giving tickets, that they may be familiar with, but not entirely understand. See is glad to inform the students in any way he can.
“We want them to know everything,” he said.
See is also happy to have an opportunity to develop a further relationship with the College and demystify the duties of a police officer.
“I have a good relationship with the College and I hope that they look at us the same way,” See said.
The CPA has also given the participating college students the opportunity to interact with more members of the community.
“They’re all really, really great,” Finnegan said. “They all offer us rides home afterwards, which is amazing.”
Finnegan feels that the CPA has been successful over all.
“I think it’s really cool to have the opportunity to get to know the police officers at the department,” she said. “I think it’s a great way to go about it.”