(Le Mars) — 14 people from Le Mars and Plymouth County recently completed the four-week course of the Citizens Academy program offered by the Le Mars Police Department and the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office. The class participants were able to have a close up look at how law enforcement officials perform their jobs and duties. Justin Daale is the Assistant Police Chief for the Le Mars Police Department. He served as one of the instructors for the course, and talks about the cooperation between the police department and the sheriff’s office in offering the course.
Daale says Le Mars is a small enough community that it is likely the officers may personally know, or, know of the people involved with a crime or accident. He says a goal with the citizens academy is to share that perspective with the attending participants. He says actors from the Postal Playhouse assisted with scenarios, especially with domestic disturbance scenarios.
Participants of the citizens academy are often placed in a similar scenario as are law enforcement officers. One such section of the class had the participants play the role of a law enforcement officer through a life-like realistic video projection program. The scenario could have the officer walking up to a residence of a reported domestic dispute, or approaching a stopped vehicle for going through a stop sign, or encountering a mental health patient in a park with small children. There are several different types of situations. The outcomes of the mentioned scenarios, can be altered, depending on the type of interaction the officer has with the person featured in the video. The scenarios may end peacefully, or they may turn violent. The program is a helpful instructional tool for officers to be aware of what could be the consequences. The citizens academy participants had to take on the role of a police officer during the various scenarios.
2021 Citizens Academy included: (from left to right) Plymouth County Sheriff Jeff TeBrink, Le Mars Police Assistant Chief, Justin Daale; Mischelle Maynard, Robert Caldwell, Debie Caldwell, Sheri Ahlrich, Michael Ellis, Peggy Ellis, Tom Jeneary, Marlys Van Otterloo, Jeremy Morris, Wendy Tabbert, Roxie Anderson, Dave Rolfes, Gayle Vonk, Noah Brazil, Le Mars Police Chief Kevin Vande Vegte, and Plymouth County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Rick Singer.
Daale says the experience proved to be an eye-opening experience for the contestants, and often provides for split-second decision making. Participants were introduced to drug and alcohol intoxicated recognition, to accident investigation, to crime scene homicide investigation, and mediator to domestic disputes. Other areas covered in the course were the use of tazers and other non-lethal ammunition. Class participants were introduced to the K-9 unit, as well as the strategic weapons tactical unit known as “Combined Emergency Response Team, or CERT”, and they even fired a variety of guns at the city’s shooting range. Daale tells of the 14 different people that completed the citizens academy.
The Le Mars Assistant Police Chief explains why the local law enforcement agencies offer the citizens academy.
Daale says another citizens academy course will be offered again next fall.