As friends and family cheered, this week’s graduation ceremony for Flossmoor’s Citizen Police Academy took on a party-like atmosphere.
Along with the graduates, applause greeted the police officers in charge of the yearly 12-week program.
Julius Baldridge, one of 15 graduates recognized at Monday's village board meeting, received the Lee Pluard Award for his leadership during the program. The award is named after a member of the first Citizen Police Award graduating class.
“Everybody should know about this program,” Baldridge said, adding he was going to have to live up to the honor.
“Now I have to show I deserve this by doing the right thing,” Baldridge said.
The Citizen Police Academy is designed to provide community members with an inside look at local law enforcement. Weekly class sessions focus on topics like use of force, firearm safety, traffic enforcement, crime scene investigation and other areas of interest.
Students were encouraged to ride along with police officers on patrol. The program included a tour of Stateville Prison and a simulated shooting exercise at the Brian Carey Training Center in Homewood.
Flossmoor patrol officers Mark Cagle and David Levy coordinated this year’s Citizen Police Academy and served as instructors. Nine other Flossmoor officers also participated in the program. Law enforcement professionals from the Illinois State Police and Park Forest Police Department also made guest appearances.
Mayor Paul Braun said police departments across the country are “under fire” but he believes many of the criticisms of law enforcement are based on misinformation. The Citizen Police Academy, he said, was established to give residents a clearer idea of how law enforcement functions in Flossmoor.
“Now you know what our police officers do every day,” Braun said. “But more than that, you know who they are. If you see them in the community, you know you can talk to them. That’s a lot different than meeting a police officer for the first time during a traffic stop.”
Braun told the graduates they should get involved with the Citizen Police Academy alumni group. According to the academy website, members of the group continue a relationship with the police department and take part in special activities and events.