Blaine’s Safety Services Division is looking for a few good men and women, no more than two dozen, to participate in the city’s 11th annual citizens academy.
The eight-week course provides a variety of activities designed to teach residents about the structure and operation of three critical city departments.
“I think we have a unique model,” said Police Chief Chris Olson, referring to the triple combination of police, fire and community standards education.
Olson and three safety services employees and Blaine Citizens Academy coordinators recently provide a program overview.
Patrol Officer Mark Boerboom, Wende Ferguson, Blaine Police Department support services manager, and Bob Fiske, community standards director and Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View (SBM) Fire Department battalion chief and fire marshal, did a weekly walkthrough of academy classes.
Classes for this year’s Blaine Citizens Academy are scheduled for Wednesday nights starting Sept. 5 and ending Oct. 24. Class size is 16 to 24 participants.
The academy will meet each week from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at a different location depending on the activities scheduled. Participants must be 18 or older.
Applicants must pass a criminal history background check to participate.
Course topics include police use of force, motor vehicle extrication, firefighting and prevention, crime prevention, housing maintenance, code compliance, criminal and fire investigations, drug awareness, clandestine methamphetamine labs, traffic stops and emergency response.
“We try and go back and forth between police, fire and community standards with the hands-on,” Fiske said.
Ferguson, Fiske and Boerboom serve as academy coordinators. Olson said the trio’s main mission involves creating awareness in a safe and fun environment.
“We are trying to help our residents understand what we do day-to-day safety services, and what it takes to become a firefighter or police officer,” Olson said.
Fiske said the first week is devoted to resident and instructor introductions.
Olson and SBM Fire Chief Nyle Zikmund provide department overviews.
Week two includes an overview of community standards, namely, how the city’s housing inspectors work and operate.
Week three involves police activities. “We let applicants handcuff people,” Fiske said. “We also practice with batons.”
Academy participants also learn about use of force and when officers should use mace, a Taser or a weapon.
“We don’t do any live fire training with weapons because it’s a time and scheduling issue,” Olson said.
Weeks four and five involve fire safety education and training with Brad Matti, deputy fire marshal, as well as a visit to the four-story Fridley training tower.
“The tower is co-owned by SBM, the Fridley Fire Department and the Brooklyn Center Fire Department,” Fiske said. “We outfit everybody in full bunker gear.”
Olson said that fire and other training activities provided during the Blaine Citizens Academy take the participants’ comfort levels into careful consideration.
“It’s an educational environment,” Olson said. “If somebody wants to opt out of an activity and just watch, that’s fine. We want them to enjoy the time they’re there.”
Week six involves traffic laws and enforcement.
Blaine Police Explorers participate in the academy, Fiske said, driving “bad guy cars” during traffic stops.
“They are great every year,” Fiske said. “It’s a good review because it gives participants a good look at what’s involved in being a police officer.”
SBM Fire Corps volunteers provide instruction in friends and family CPR. Eighty to 90 percent of academy participants come in early for that, Fiske said.
According to Fiske, the citizens academy has vastly improved department working relationships.
“Twenty years ago, I would not have been able to tell you who all the Blaine police officers were,” Fiske said. “We never worked together. Now, I can tell you who they are.”
Residents can learn more information about the Blaine Citizens Academy by contacting Matti at 763-785-6184 or e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Hennagir is at email@example.com