Another Washington Citizens Police Academy ends

Staff Writer
Washington Times-Reporter
Jennifer Freeman
Washington Times-Reporter, editor

Graduations always make me teary-eyed. There’s just something about hearing individual names called out and watching as that person shakes the hand of the instructor and accepts a certificate of not just completion, but of accomplishment.

Although the class was only once a week for 12 weeks, our final Washington Citizens Police Academy graduation ceremony April 26 was no exception.

As Officer Jim Fussner called out names, I couldn’t help but think how I would miss spending Tuesday nights with these people learning about a very wide variety of topics.

And this was no ordinary lecture/discussion class. If there was any opportunity to make the class interactive and hands-on, Fussner found it.

After a class presentation by a Crime Scene Investigator, Fussner set up a fake murder scene, complete with a victim and minute details of evidence strewn about, at his home the following week so we could practice what we had learned. 

We experienced what it was like to be driving down the road in a bait car and have it suddenly go on lock-down: doors and windows locked, engine shut off. Even the horn was out of our control.

And those routine traffic stops? They were anything but routine when we practiced them. From guns being pulled to drivers running off, to pregnant women in labor, we had to deal with each situation.

Aside from teaching us interesting tidbits about law enforcement and the officers’ day-to-day duties, the citizens police academy also had a more serious mission: bridging the gap between Washington police officers and Washington residents.

“There’s a perception of police as a closed group. I really appreciated the honesty and openness of this class, of all the people who said, ‘This is what we do.’

“And I feel more like a citizen of this community now,” said Doug Allan at the CPA graduation ceremony.

Allan is the executive director of Counseling and Family Services in Peoria. He and his wife, Mary, moved to Washington three-and-a-half  years ago from Massachusetts.

As social workers, Mary and Doug Allan were interested to see the connection between their line of work and the police officers’ duties.

“Their job, of course, is to enforce, but they’re really doing social work, too. How they interact and relate to people is just as important as what kind of equipment they have,” said Doug Allan, adding, “I have a lot of respect for what they do, what they’re up against and how they do it.”

In fact, building relationships is one of the key goals of the CPA listed on the police department’s Web site:

“Among our goals of the Citizen Police Academy is to help the residents of Washington to better understand how the police work in their community. It is hoped that all graduates of the Citizen Police Academy will get to know more about the men and women who are protecting their community and why they make the decisions they do while performing that duty. Another goal is to build relationships between members of the police department and the community in order to assist in our community policing efforts.”

Well, Chief Jim Kuchenbecker and Officer Jim Fussner, I’d say you have successfully met those goals. 

I commend the Washington Police Department for an incomparable Citizens Police Academy. It is something that everyone in Washington should experience.