Senior citizens cop an inside look at Park Ridge police procedure
Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski welcomes15 citizens to the department's first Senior Citizen Police Academy on Sept. 20. The six-week academy will educate seniors about police operations. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
PARK RIDGE — Harry Monroe says he doesn’t mind that he’s been stopped by Park Ridge police for driving his Corvette faster than traffic laws allow.
“I’m glad he did it because he slowed me down,” Monroe acknowledged. “As old as I am I still have a lead foot.”
Monroe was one of 15 residents attending the very first meeting of the Park Ridge Police Department’s Senior Citizens Police Academy, an offshoot of the popular Citizens Policy Academy, which originated five years ago.
The academy kicked off Sept. 20 at the Park Ridge Senior Center, where Monroe shared that he hopes to learn more about how police interact with the public, how they think and, if possible, correct misconceptions others might have about them.
“I always say if I can learn one thing, it’s an informative session,” Monroe said.
Led by Police Cmdr. Jason Leavitt, the six-week Senior Academy is a shorter version of the regular Citizens Academy, meets during the day and will focus on issues specifically of interest to seniors, said Community Strategies Officer Julie Genualdi.
“All the topics will be tweaked to specially address issues with seniors,” she said.
It’s that kind of focus that inspired Don Mellema, a Citizens Police Academy graduate, to sign up.
“I hope to get the senior angle,” he said. “If it’s tailored to seniors, what is there about the police experience that relates specifically to seniors? Do they handle or treat seniors differently than other people? Are the requirements for police interaction with the senior different than they are, say, for teenagers?”
While there are no state laws or special requirements specifically pertaining to how police must deal with the senior population, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office does offer a 40-hour class educating officers about issues that affect older residents, crimes where seniors are targets (like home-repair scams) and how to communicate and respond to senior needs.
“What it’s really supposed to do is better equip the officers to deal with the challenges associated with seniors,” said Deputy Police Chief Lou Jogmen.
Two officers with the Park Ridge Police Department have become certified elderly-service officers through the program, he added.
During the Senior Police Academy the participants will learn about what goes into a traffic stop, how detectives conduct investigations, how evidence is processed and how to protect themselves from scams aimed at older adults.
“You’re going to be exposed to the facts and information about the Park Ridge Police Department that most other people don’t see and get,” Leavitt told the group.
During the first meeting participants learned about the process of becoming a police officer and all the months of testing and training that are required. Once the Police Department selects a recruit based on the results of written, physical and cognitive exams and a polygraph test, there are several weeks of police academy training followed by 12 weeks of work as a field training officer with the department. During this last phase the officers are learning the actual job, which also includes everything from memorizing street names and studying the Police Department Handbook (“Everything we can possibly do on duty is in that book,” Leavitt explained) to learning the best ways to deal with members of the public.
“I was really astounded by the amount of training that the police officers get before becoming a part of the community,” said Kay Mulvey, of Park Ridge. “I had no idea it was such an extensive process. It says a lot that Park Ridge is really concerned about making a good mix for the community. I think that’s really important.”
Mulvey, who signed up for the academy after learning about it at National Night Out, said she is eager to get “a whole overview of everything that goes on” in local police work.
“I’m interested in knowing if there’s an increase in police activity in Park Ridge, if there are more burglaries, more scams,” she added. “It seems in recent times that maybe due to the economy there can be more problems.”
Ruth D’Ambrosio said she wants to learn more about local laws, her own personal rights and when it’s proper to contact the police.
“If I call the police for a situation, I want to maybe make sure I don’t call them unnecessarily,” she said.
Park Ridge resident Ed Finnelly said he just wants to learn “how the Police Department does their everyday business.”
“I just thought it would be very informative,” he said. “And it is.”