There is no official badge or authority that comes with it and no monetary compensation. There’s just the altruistic feeling of knowing that you are doing something good for your community.
That’s what 26 Town and Country and Creve Coeur residents felt after completing a nine-week Citizen’s Police Academy and graduating Tuesday night at the Creve Coeur Government Center. The academy was taught in cooperation with Town and Country, Olivette, Frontenac, Des Peres and Creve Coeur police departments.
“We get an opportunity to explain, a little more in detail, to the people we serve what it is we actually do,” said Lt. Bob Arthur of the Town and Country Police Department. “Hopefully they will have a little better understanding of what the expectations are for us to go out and do our job and we hope they have a little fun while they do it too.”
The graduates ranged from a 16-year-old high school student to a retired 75-year-old man and even included a husband-and-wife team from Creve Coeur. It was the 14th graduating class of the course, which originated in Creve Coeur and later added the other four municipalities.
While most couples plan to do things together, Michael and Jena Yarbrough spent their last nine Tuesday nights learning police procedures and even spent one night at the shooting range.
“Some people might call it a date night,” Michael Yarbrough joked. “We went to the cert training and that was very interesting to us. We thought we could help other people by doing this and it’s turned into a little bit more than we thought, but we’re dedicated to it.”
Ken Dillner, 75, of Crystal Lake Park, said his community began “a block captain” idea and wanted someone “to be responsible” to run it. He called the academy an excellent idea and praised the work of all of the professional emergency services workers.
The 16-year-old who wished to remain anonymous hopes to use his new certification as the beginning of a career in law enforcement.
“It’s always been a personal thing,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in law enforcement and saw myself doing that down the line. This is the path I’ve been on.”
Tuesday’s ceremony began with an introduction from Frontenac Police Chief Tom Becker and followed by a video chronicling their course for the family and friends who attended. The instructors, officers from each community who volunteered their time to teach the course, then spoke before each graduate received a certificate and a mock badge.
The officers said they enjoy the course because it allows citizens to see what police work is really like instead of the images portrayed on television and in movies.
Becker said the program is “a big plus” and goes back to the idea planted by legendary British politician Sir Robert Peel, for whom the “Bobbies” are named.
“Peel said citizens must do full-time what police officers do part time,” Becker said, explaining that cops can’t be everywhere at all times so community residents must be responsible to police their neighborhoods when necessary. Becker said the graduates have become better witnesses and learned that they have “an important role.”