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Law & Order

Each week, real police action is broadcast into the living rooms of millions of Americans. Average citizens are generally fascinated by crime-fighting, but they seldom get the opportunity to meet the people behind the badges in their local community.

In 1998 Lombard joined a growing number of Illinois communities when it initiated the Lombard Citizens Police Academy, a program that helps residents, age 21 and older, better understand police work in their community and develops stronger ties between the community and the police department.

“The objective of a Citizens Police Academy program is not to train individuals to be reserve police officers, but to produce informed citizens,” states the website of the Illinois Citizens Police Academy Association. “The citizens and police officers meet each other face-to-face in a neutral, friendly setting and each becomes a person to the other. In the past, citizens have simply seen a uniform, now they have an understanding about the person behind the badge.”

Once interested Lombard citizens have completed the 10-week taught by active officers, they are invited to join the Lombard Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association (LCPAAA), which meets monthly to offer members informative programs and an opportunity to meet fellow residents and volunteer in Lombard.

“I took the course when I knew that I was going to be retiring. I was looking for ways to give back to the community where I had lived for 36 years, and this program interested me. Both my husband and son are police officers, and I never really knew everything that they do,” said Margaret Bucholz, LCPAAA president.

The membership of approximately 75 LCPA graduates supports the police department by helping direct traffic during large events like the Lilac Parade, the Lilac Time Art and Craft Fair and local races. They also assist the police with holiday weekend traffic safety stops, the Memorial Day ceremonies in Madison Meadows Park, the annual Mutt Strutt and with National Night Out festivities. Some are even trained “wire watchers” who are used after big storms to guard fallen electric wires until Commonwealth Edison arrives, Bucholz said.

The LCPAAA also holds its own events like an annual food drive and they raise funds through various fund-raising efforts. Those funds are used to help pay for the Department’s annual “Shop with a Cop” program for needy and ill children in Lombard.

Representatives of the LCPAAA and the police department buy gifts from the children’s wish lists, but a police officer also picks them up at their homes and takes them shopping for the members of their families. Afterwards, they go to the village hall where they wrap the presents, see Santa and enjoy a pizza party.

“Not everyone joins after completing the course, but many do and I have found that it is a nice group of people of all types and ages,” Bucholz said. “The board, for instance, is very experienced and very helpful, and Sergeant Bud Marks is our liaison to the department. Anyone in the village who wants our help needs to clear it through him.”

“We are very fortunate to have such an outstanding group of citizens who support us in many different ways,” said Marks. “Not only does the police department benefit from their work and support, but so do fellow Lombardians. The membership has raised funds to purchase equipment such as bicycles, ballistic shields and a Kevlar vest for the canine officer, to name just a few. These items were put to immediate use to help create a safer environment for the public, as well as the officers. Other departments and organizations have contacted me to inquire about LCPAAA support, dedication and success.”

For more information about the next Lombard Citizens Police Academy session, visit www.villageoflombard.org/98/Citizens-Police-Academy.

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