Wednesday, May 23, 2007

GUEST BLOGGER - LORALEE LILLIBRIDGE

(That's Loralee on the left!)

We asked Loralee to come and give up the facts, just the facts ma'am on attending the police academy!

Hi y’all, thanks for inviting me along for today’s ride. I’m so glad it’s nice enough to have the top down. What could be more fun than a road trip with nine awesome and totally talented women?

When Deb Dixon asked me to guest blog about the Citizen Police Academy I’m attending, I wondered how in the world I could relate all that the course involves in 300-600 words. Truth is I can’t, so I’ll just hit the highlights, but I’ll be happy to answer any questions later. And yes, I’m taking the class because I’m a writer. I want to include some law enforcement background in the romances I write. And there’s a mystery or two buzzing around in my imagination just waiting to be written. Can you think of a better hero than a cop?

The course, offered by the Grand Rapids Police Department, is primarily focused on educating citizens about the local law enforcement operation. These are the greatest bunch of men and women you’ll ever meet. They truly care about their jobs and the people they have sworn to protect. Police Chief Harry Dolan is totally committed to serving the City of Grand Rapids and its citizens, plus he’s a terrific public speaker.

Every week for ten weeks, our class of citizens meets at Police Headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, for a 3-1/2 hour session. Organized and led by Lt. Mark Ostapowicz and Sgt. John Dorer, the classes cover everything from the dangers of traffic stops, internal affairs, Emergency Dispatch, the Special Response Team and their weapons, how a Crisis Negotiator handles an emergency situation, crime scene procedures, Emergency Vehicle Operation, Criminal Law and the K-9 Unit. Officers from each department give lectures and demonstrations and show videos. There are three other writers in the class also. Needless to say, we have some lively Q&A sessions.

So far, I’ve completed five weeks and one ride-along. Keep in mind that I’m getting pretty darn close to my 72nd birthday, but I have a laundry list of things I really want to do before I head for the Big Library in the sky. Taking this course and riding along in a police cruiser was on that list, and by gosh, now I can check that off, along with getting published and climbing to the top of a light house.

Now, about that ride-along...I was fortunate to have Officer Anthony Leonard as my ride-along partner. He outfitted me with a safety vest and we headed to the motor pool and his cruiser. After explaining how the car camera worked and demonstrating the laptop used for sending in reports, we hit the streets. Our first call came within half an hour of leaving headquarters. Our service area was one of the busier parts of town.

Officer Leonard patiently answered my questions, handled situations that could have become more serious if he hadn’t intervened, explained why he did what he did, and was a master at the wheel of his cruiser. When the situation was not safe for me to exit the car with him, most of the time I was able to observe the event through the car camera. I never felt in any danger, even when we were transporting prisoners to the jail.

We made two arrests, which gave me the opportunity to see the inside of the jail where the subjects were booked. I expected a Thursday night ride to be rather uneventful, but we answered numerous calls. One required the use of lights and sirens as we sped down the traffic-filled expressway. Talk about an adrenalin rush! Oh, did I mention the ride-along was a 12-hour shift beginning at 6:30 P.M.?

There are still five weeks left in the course and I look forward to each one. I wonder how I’ll fare when we’re placed in the video simulator and have to make snap decisions. What should I say? What should I do? Shoot or don’t shoot? This is very much a hands-on course. We’re told the K-9 Unit demonstration is one of the most exciting. I’m definitely not sticking my arm in that padded sleeve!

When graduation arrives in June, Chief Dolan will give us our certificates and pins at a reception and I will have accomplished one more challenge on my list. If the GRPD ever offers an advanced course, I’ll be there in a heartbeat. There’s a lot more to learn.

WHAT’S ON YOUR LIST OF THINGS YOU REALLY WANT TO DO IN YOUR LIFETIME? HAVE YOU CHECKED OFF ANY OF THEM YET? HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT TAKING A COURSE LIKE THE CITIZEN POLICE ACADEMY?

13 comments:

Debra Dixon said...

Loralee-- We're so glad to have you and I want to know what the oddest question someone's asked during the Q&A sessions!

lois greiman said...

Loralee, I met you at a booksigning somewhere. Really can't remember where, but I remember thinking, that's how I want to look in ten years.

Thanks for blogging with us.

So...in the things I'd like to do category...I'd like to become a fabulous photographer and do some kind of coffee table book that would inspire people to treat the earth better. I'd like to paint too. Oils I think. And do some jumping...maybe three day eventing...on the show circuit.

I'd better get busy.

Sarah Grimm said...

Loralee-

It sounds like you're having a blast and learning a lot! What has been your favorite part so far? Was is the ridealong?

You're getting so much great information for future books. And just think of the contacts you've made for those questions that may come up while writing.

loralee said...

Deb, when one class member asked where a suspect might hide drug evidence to keep from being found during a body search, I learned more than I really wanted to know. Most of the speakers had individual stories that could make your hair stand on end, and then again, make you realize these guys are true heros every day of their lives.

Lois, I met you when you were signing with Karen Kay, I think it was in Muskegon. There's a photo on my website. I hope you give photography a shot while you're writing those great books! BTW, I'm a horse-lover, too.

Sarah, it's difficult to pick a favorite part of the course so far, but I'd have to say the ride-along, the crisis negotiator's lecture and the weapons demo are at the top of the list. Vice and K-9 units are the next ones I'm looking forward to seeing.

loralee said...

Since I answered Deb's question before I'd had enough coffee this morning, I forgot to mention that one of the most controversial questions arose after we viewed actual footage of police in pursuit situations. We were asked if we thought the police handled the pursuit safely. What would we have done differently? This really generated a lot of different and interesting viewpoints since we all observed different things during the pursuit.

And Chief Dolan recommended reading BLINK, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell, on the subject of listening with our eyes. Fascinating reading, even if you're not a writer.

Oh, and thanks, Lois, for the kind words. I've discovered that 70 is only a number and every day beyond that is a gift I don't intend to waste. Who knows what I might be when I grow up? The choices are endless.

Betina Krahn said...

Welcome, welcome, welcome, Loralee! I'm so thrilled to have you with us in the convertible! (And a little jealous that you get to ride in the front!)

And what an experience the Citizen's Police Academy must be! It sounds like the kind of thing every city should offer, to help people understand what their police go through and the procedures they must follow.

One of the things I wanted to do was see the Eiffle Tower in Paris. Got to do that two years ago. . . though I wished I could have stayed longer and soaked up more of the city. And about that K-9 experience-- I'm with you all the way. I wouldn't let a dog chomp on my sleeve, even if it was padded!

And twelve hour shifts? Wow, no wonder officers are known for drinking coffee! I once experienced "jail house coffee"-- purely in the line of duty, and it kept me awake for two damn days!

I'd LOVE to take a course like this!

Helen Brenna said...

Loralee, thanks for hitching a ride!

I have a friend who did this citizens police academy here in Mpls and it sounds fascinating. On my to do list.

Have you come up with any story ideas as a result of the academy classes?

I used to want to run a marathon some time in my life, but I realized that finishing a manuscript fit that bill!

Now there are several travel destinations are on my list of things to do before I go to that "library in the sky" - love that!

Ann Roth said...

Loralee-

Two years ago I attended a Citizens' Academy in Lynnwood, WA. Mine lasted 4 months and was the best course, ever. But during me ride-along we didn't arrest a soul. Yours sounds ever so exciting!

One important thing I learned is that we owe our men in blue a huge debt. (Okay, I already knew that, but the course emphasized that in ways I'd never considered) They keep the underbelly of society out of our sight, and for that I am very grateful.

Thanks for sharing this and bringing back my own wonderful memories of that course.

loralee said...

Ladies, I am loving this ride, even though the price of gas is over the top. Maybe you should pass the hat for donations.

Betina, I know you would love this course. Every week I get a thrill when I walk through the doors of the Police Department and am reminded what an honor it is to be able to learn from these dedicated professionals.

Wow! The Eiffel tower is a "lofty" accomplishment. Aren't you glad you can check that off your list?

Yes, the officers have 12-hour shifts and even longer when necessary. If any of you watched the funeral of President Ford on TV, you may have noticed how calm and orderly the city of Grand Rapids appeared during the entire event. That was due to the professional and highly organized efforts of the Police Department and its leaders. As I've said before, they are awesome men and women.

Helen, you won't regret taking a course like this. You will come away inspired and more aware than ever of the risks the police take every day in order to serve and protect us. And yes, I've come up with some exciting story ideas so far. Can't wait to get started on them. I'm not ready to turn in my library card yet!

Ann, how great that your course lasted four months. I have hopes that the GRPD will offer an advanced course one of these days. And I agree with you that we owe our men in blue a tremendous debt of gratitude for everything they do with our safety and welfare in mind.

Keri Ford said...

Loralee,

Are you getting to watch any officers in training work to get their badge? I'm not sure how the police department works, but my aunt went through the sheriff's department in my town to become a deputy.

Wow, talk about tough. I didn't see the hand to hand combat, but I saw all the bruises. and she said getting shot in the face with mase was something she'll never forget.

One day I would love to go to London. I've been to most of the states, and traveled abroad some, but London is a stop I'm determind to make one day.

loralee said...

Keri, congratulations to your aunt on becoming a deputy. The training for law enforcement is strenuous and demanding.

We didn't observe actual training sessions, but the SRT (Special Response Team) gave a great demonstration of weapons along with actual videos of some of their encounters. And we'll be put in the video simulator to test our decision-making skills later on in the course. That will be an eye-opener, I'm sure!

And don't give up on your dream of visiting London.
I've wanted to visit Ireland for as long as I can remember.(That's a lot of years, too) In August I will finally realize that dream when I fly to Scotland, board a ship, and embark on a Celtic tour of Ireland, Wales, England and France. Another item checked off my list.

Hang on to your dreams. You'll be surprised what you can do, if you believe in yourself.

AuthorM said...

Hey, Loralee! Came over here from PASIC because I would *love* to take a course like the Citizen Police Academy!

And I don't write mysteries or even thrillers! (at least...not the sort which could justify the police getting involved!)

It sounds like a perfectly incredible opportunity. I doubt my little pipsqueak town offers anything so organized, but I wonder if I could ask the local police chief (lives in my neighborhood) if I could ride along some time!

Thanks for sharing, I'm so glad you wrote about this.

M

loralee said...

Hi, authorm,

Glad you popped over from the PASIC loop.
And, speaking of PASIC, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the other writer in the photo (far right) is Patricia Kay, past-prez of PASIC and a wonderful friend and mentor. The photo was taken at our signing in San Antonio when we had Special Editions out at the same time--my first, her gazillionth. The gal in the middle is the CR from B&N.

Now, as to doing a ride-along in your town, it won't hurt to ask. Or your police chief neighbor might be able to tell you of a Citizen Police Academy in a city near you. The larger cities are more apt to offer them, but maybe you could spark an interest in your own little corner of the world. How cool would that be? It's worth a try.

Even if you don't write mystery or thrillers, just learning about the law enforcement and how it works can trigger a whole slew of story ideas.

Plus, you'll be a better informed citizen, too. Most police officers are willing to share how they do their job because too many times, there are misconceptions in their community about the cops and their work.

I hope you get an opportunity to attend a Citizen Police Academy soon.