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Academy graduates gain higher regard for police


Citizens learn about the work police do in 12-week training course

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Citizens Police Academy students gather for class on Wednesday nights at Wood Village City Hall.Through her church, Anna McGinnis baked cookies and handed them out to police officers on duty before she ever realized the kind of work they actually do, besides hand out tickets.

Until her friend Marilyn Jones asked her to take a class with her at the Wood Village Citizen’s Police Academy, a series of courses offered free over a 12-week period every Wednesday night at Wood Village City Hall.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Sgt. James Eriksen has coordinated the Wood Village Citizens Police Academy since he started it 9 years ago.Multnomah County Sheriff’s Sgt. James Eriksen started the academy nine years ago to teach citizens about the sheriff’s work. It includes a tour of Portland’s downtown jail and a Columbia River Patrol ride-along, which has become increasingly popular.

“I have people who want to come back every year,” Eriksen said.

Jones, 74, of Northeast Portland is one of those people. She finished the academy last year, but liked it so much she decided to take it again, and this time she invited her friend.

The two women will graduate from the Wood Village Citizen’s Police Academy along with 28 classmates at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at City Hall in Wood Village.

Jones, a volunteer of 15 years for a rape advocacy program through Multnomah County, joined the Citizen’s Police Academy because she wanted to learn more about the many departments of the Sheriff’s Office.

Her classmates run the gamut from a young woman prepping for a career as a police officer to public school teachers interested in learning about shootings and school safety.

Eriksen said most people think the sheriff’s office, which contracts with Wood Village and Corbett for police services, runs the jail and drives around up in the woods and that’s about it.

People may not know about its large detective unit which investigates domestic crimes, elder abuse and human trafficking, he said.

The classes are to give people a better understanding of what deputies do and reduce bad stereotypes.

On the first night of the academy, Sheriff Dan Staton, deputies and Wood Village Mayor Patricia Smith introduced the program which ran September through November.

This year, citizens covered topics on child exploitation, drugs, gangs, officer-shootings, Taser use and trauma intervention.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Multnomah County Sheriffs Lt. Harry Smith gives a lecture on police response to deadly officer-involved shootings.Courses are divided up into two-hour classes at city hall and four field trips to the Multnomah County Detention Center, the Hansen Building (Sheriff’s Office location) and Columbia River.

Using fake guns and role-playing on a big screen at the sheriff’s training center, students got to learn how an officer makes the decision to shoot a person in an officer-involved shooting.

A forensic artist from Clackamas County showed the class how she draws pictures of suspects and criminals.

Students also visited the county jail twice and went on two ride-alongs on the river and in a cop car.

That was Jones’ favorite part. Sitting in a police car, she rode down to the Columbia River Gorge. Absorbing all the lights, equipment and voices coming in over the radio, she was in awe watching the officer multi-task, driving while typing into the computer, checking license plates and responding to calls.

Jones no longer believes police officers just hand out tickets. She highly recommends the academy to others.

Deputy Kate Lazzini will continue the academy next year, as Sgt. Eriksen has been re-assigned.

Priority is given to Wood Village residents, but anyone 18 and over is welcome to the free academy.

After hearing a female captain speak at the Multnomah County Court House, McGinnis, 69, of Northeast Portland said if she could re-do her whole career over again, she’d sign up for the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s so varied and interesting,” she said. “I’ve learned so much," McGinnis said. “I’ve walked away with a deeper sense of appreciation for (police) and what they do for out community,” she said.

“It’s like you have a little umbrella around you all the time.”