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Buffalo Grove Citizen Police Academy

Many people ask themselves how they can be more involved in their community. Business owners join their local chamber of commerce and sports enthusiasts sign up for various leagues at the park district. Those of a charitable nature volunteer at area food drives, and many people annually attend the parades and festivals held in their town. For residents of the Village of Buffalo Grove, there are many outlets for community involvement. One such way is the Citizen Police Academy, a unique opportunity for the people of Buffalo Grove to actively learn about the men and women who serve and protect them.

The Citizen Police Academy began in 1997 and has been going strong ever since. In 12 years, more than 300 Buffalo Grove residents have participated in the 22 academies held by the Buffalo Grove Police Department. One night a week for eight weeks in the fall, around 15 to 20 academy students learn about many facets of police work including crime scene processing, firearms safety and traffic accident investigation. No prior law enforcement experience is required for admittance into the academy. In fact, Crime Prevention Officer James Yester says most participants “just have an interest in how a police department operates. It is our goal that each participant comes away with a better understanding of what law enforcement is about here in Buffalo Grove.”

Having spent his entire law enforcement career, more than 20 years, at the Buffalo Grove Police Department, Officer Yester has an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the department—knowledge he has put to good use in the Crime Prevention/Community Involvement Unit, which oversees the Citizen Police Academy. “I have served as a patrol officer, D.A.R.E. officer, juvenile officer,” he recalls. For the past seven years, though, he had been the crime prevention officer but returned to the patrol division in January 2010.

Officer Paul Jamil is the new crime prevention officer, only one of the many changes that the Citizen Police Academy has seen. The program is evaluated annually, and throughout the years, changes have occurred to continually improve the academy for the citizens of Buffalo Grove. “We went from operating once a year to twice per year, and back to once a year,” says Officer Yester. “We’ve gone from 10 sessions to 12 sessions to eight sessions.”

The curriculum has changed, also. “At one point we brought in experts from several law enforcement disciplines for demonstrations,” remembers Office Yester. “My philosophy is that we have the experts here—our officers. Let’s show our citizens what we can do.”

Because of this philosophy, all programs are now conducted by the staff of the Buffalo Grove Police Department, adding even more to the spirit of community the Citizen Police Academy fosters.

As an offshoot of the Citizen Police Academy, the Buffalo Grove Police Department also offers the Junior Police Academy for those between the ages of 12 and 18. Since its inception in 2006, the JPA has offered its students invaluable information on issues directly related to their safety—drinking and driving, seatbelt usage, bicycle safety and more. For five consecutive mornings during the summer, around a dozen students participate in the JPA—not only learning about how to keep themselves safe, but how the members of the Buffalo Grove Police Department keep them and the entire village safe.

Another subsidiary of the Citizen Police Academy is the Public Safety Breakfast Club—formerly the Senior Citizen Mini Law Enforcement Academy, which began around 2000. The breakfast club is a collaboration between the Buffalo Grove Police and Fire departments and the Buffalo Grove Park District Senior Center. Both public safety departments jointly present safety programs to between 20 and 30 seniors for around an hour and a half the last Wednesday of each month at the park district.

In addition to the Junior Police Academy and the Public Safety Breakfast Club, the Citizen Police Academy was also the impetus for a new division at the Buffalo Grove Police Department. Office Yester recounts, “From the academy we developed our Police Volunteer program. The volunteers can do non-law enforcement duties such as filing, transporting court documents, delivering trustee packets and taking squad cars to public works for maintenance. These were tasks that officers had to do throughout their shifts. For the most part, the volunteers have taken over these tasks and volunteer hundreds of hours annually.”

Police Volunteers also join the officers in helping with parades and special events held by the Village. Though Police Volunteers are generally recruited from participants in the Citizen Police Academy, residents who have not completed an academy session are still welcome to apply.

Community involvement is of the upmost importance to the Village of Buffalo Grove, but through programs such as the Citizen and Junior Police academies and the Public Safety Breakfast Club, it is also clear that the safety of the Village’s residents is also tantamount. Participating in any of these programs ensures members of the Buffalo Grove community will learn more about the Village and, more importantly, how to keep it and themselves safe.

For application forms and more information on the Buffalo Grove Citizen Police Academy, Junior Police Academy, the Public Safety Breakfast Club and Police Volunteers, visit the Village of Buffalo Grove Web site at www.vbg.org.

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