Citizens’ Police Academy resumes informational programs for the public on police departments

The Citizen Police Academy will resume its informational programs on law enforcement April 11.

The academy is made up of the Champaign County police departments and the Police Training Institute, teaching participants about topics ranging from K-9 demos to a police ride-along. Michael Schlosser, director of the Police Training Institute and academy coordinator, said the institute has been hosting the academy for 20 years, giving Champaign-Urbana residents the chance to take a closer look at how law enforcement works.

One of the academy’s goals is to give citizens the chance to have a better understanding of how the departments work, Schlosser said.

“It’s not just about the citizens understanding the police,” he said. “It’s also about the police being able to interact with the citizens and see what’s important to them.” 

Academy meetings will be held weekly, discussing a different topic each evening. Urbana Chief of Police Pat Connolly has taught one session each year for 15 years and said his drug identification session gives residents a better understanding of street drugs and paraphernalia. In his session, he shows attendees an example of a drug commonly covered in the media to demonstrate what they are and how they’re measured.

“I show them things like how marijuana is packaged so that parents can see what it looks like and be able to recognize it,” Connolly said.

Connolly teaches a similar session at the Police Training Institute, where students attend three sessions to absorb the information he teaches at the academy in one. Kimberlie Kranich, director of community content and engagement for Illinois Public Media, attended last year’s academy sessions to gain a greater understanding of how the police force operates and said she will encourage her staff to attend this year.

“What they show (of police) on TV and how it actually is are two completely different things,” Kranich said. 

She said building relationships with the police helps the community better understand what they report at WILL-TV. 

Kranich said she shared what she learned with WILL staff to improve its news coverage. 

“At WILL, we try to hold up a mirror to the community,” she said. “We don’t cover crime, but we cover its context, and to cover it we have to build relationships with people in the community.”

Classes are held Thursdays at 6 p.m., and the instruction will be provided by officers of different agencies.

Ariell can be reached at [email protected]