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Citizen’s Police Academy offers insight and instruction

By Kelly Terpstra,

For Mindi Fisher and Gus Meyer of Charles City, it was personal.

For others, it was a chance to put a face to a badge or maybe even witness how an actual police department operates.

Just being a good citizen could have been the rationale for many that sat in the NIACC classroom this past Tuesday.

The reasons or intent behind attending the 10-week citizen’s police academy put on by the Charles City Police Department varied.

But regardless, a bond was built between law enforcement and the community it protects.

“We try to cover the main topics. What we try to do is give everybody a taste of what we do, but also then encourage them to partner with us in being our community partner – somebody that can help us,” said CCPD Chief Hugh Anderson, who has been a full-time member of the force since 1994.

Last Tuesday was the culmination of the academy that lasted two-and-half months and met every Tuesday, starting in September at the NIACC Building. Around 20 graduates of the academy received certificates of completion along with T-shirts showcasing the CCPD’s narcotics dog – Jordy. Two special certificates were awarded to Meyer and Fisher – recovering methamphetamine addicts that have transformed their lives for the better and become productive members of the community.

“I’ve always been on the other side of the law,” said Meyer. “The public needs to know that recovering addicts – we do recover. We do deserve second chances and we’re not bad people.”

The pair got up in front of the audience and spoke about their pasts at one particular session. They answered any and all questions fired at them from fellow classmates of the academy.

“That was actually incredible to get the two of them in our class. One night they stood up and they let anybody ask any questions they wanted. They told their whole testimony,” said Anderson. “It was very good for both of them. We’ve never had that before. It was very unique.”

Meyer has been clean for six years and talks about his sobriety in the local recovery group – So Far, which stands for Sober For a Reason. The Christian-based organization tries to help people in the community that struggle with substance abuse. His motivation to attend the academy was simple.

“I wanted to see the inner workings of the police department and how we can work with them and how we can help recovering addicts. That’s what this is all about for us – to give back to the community,” said Meyer.

Anderson said the academy has been going strong now for about eight years. He said the program was first started by former CCPD Chief Mike Wendel. Law enforcement topics that were discussed at the different sessions included learning about criminal investigations, use of force and firearms, defensive tactics, along with such issues as meth labs, and high-risk calls.

Mark and Theresa Jenkins – the parents of current CCPD officer John Jenkins – attended the class regularly. For Theresa, it was important for her to know what officers encounter in their interaction with the public and the dangerous situations that they fearlessly have to take on.

“For us, just taking this class – the 10 weeks of classes – it’s getting to know what they go through on a daily basis. It helps us to know how to respond in different situations,” she said. “There’s a human behind that badge.”

Tuesday’s night’s final meeting centered on what do about active shooter situations. Just in the last three days leading up to the final academy class, there were four separate active-shooter incidents that occurred across the nation. Mark Jenkins is executive director of Cedar Springs Camp and Retreat. The church camp just north of Floyd will see hundreds of kids attend the retreat during the summer months.

“Lightning strikes very rarely, but it’s important for us in this day in age to be prepared for such a thing. We need to be aware about security,” said Mark Jenkins. “Our purpose for doing that was for our own security, our own emergency operations plan. What do we do just in case?”  

The academy was led by Captain Brandon Franke and almost every officer on the force talked about a certain issue or topic during the course of the academy. Franke wasn’t able to attend the last session, as his wife gave birth to a daughter on that very day – Zurie Grace, a nine pound, 22-inch girl.

Anderson thanked everyone that attended the class.

“You guys came here for the entire time. You gave me your time for no reason except to either learn about us or to partner with us. We really do appreciate that very much,” said Anderson.

Meyer said his life is transparent now and was adamant about letting the town that he lives in know the truth about the dangers that do exist in Charles City. He said he wants to work together and make it better.

“Education is huge. We need to educate this community,” said Meyer.

Fisher has been sober for over 10 years – a marquee milestone achieved exactly a week before the final academy class commenced. Her drug of choice – meth – didn’t stop her from achieving positive goals in life and setting herself free from the bonds of addiction.

“I used for 16 years. When I was 13, I started everything. Then I tapered off to meth,” said Fisher, who also said she sold and cooked the powerful stimulant.

Fisher saw a parallel between former addicts like herself and the officers who led the class.

“The officers want people to realize they’re just like everyone else. Also, as a recovering addict, I want people to understand that we’re kind of like everyone else – once you recover,” said Fisher.