PAPD Citizens Police Academy – Part 3

Guess who just graduated from the Citizens Police Academy?!…ME!

If you haven’t had a chance to read about my experience in the academy you can catch up by reading Part 1 (Weeks 1-4) and Part 2 (Sit-A-Long & Ride-A-Long).

Here’s a recap of the last four weeks in class:

Week 5 – Criminal Investigations and Crime Scene Investigations

When people ask me “If you can be anything, any job, what would you want to do or be?” one of my answers is always a detective. So, if you were to ask what my favorite week of the academy was my answer would be week 5.

We had three different instructors this week, all who work in the Investigative Services Division:

  • Detective Agent Aaron Sunseri – financial crimes
  • Detective Agent Joel Hornung – robbery/homicide
  • Property / Evidence Technician Jeanette Bianculli – works with all detectives to support their evidence collection and storage needs

This week, we learned about the life of a detective, their responsibilities and assignments, interviews, interrogation process and we also went over a case study.

I can’t find any articles on the case study we worked on, but it happened in 1999, it was a sexual assault case that occurred in Palo Alto near Sundance, the steakhouse. Detective Agent Aaron Sunseri worked on this case in 2009. He was given the box full of evidence 10 years after the case had occured but he was still able to solve it and catch the suspect. He walked us through the evidence that had already been collected and the steps he took to solve the case. Through out his presentation of the case we learned how the DNA process works and how DNA played a big part of solving this cold case.

The last hour we worked with Jeanette, who led us through an awesome fingerprinting exercise. We used chemical powder, tape, and a brush to collect fingerprints from different items (I used the CD shown below).


Week 6 – Homeland Security and Disaster Preparedness

We had a pretty interesting session at the Office of Emergency Services. We heard from Director Ken Dueker of the City’s Office of Emergency Services who spoke to us about the risks and hazards of living in Palo Alto (to include flooding and winter storms, earthquakes, and everything else right on up to terrorism), personal emergency preparedness and crime prevention, critical incidents / homeland security as they pertain to Palo Alto.

Week 7 – Officer Safety, Use of Force, and Defensive Tactics

An officer’s decision to use force against someone is one of the greatest responsibilities they have and it’s one they have to make in a split second under extremely stressful conditions. No pressure, right?

In this weeks class we experienced the pressure that officers face everyday. In class we interacted with a video screen (depicting a scenario that is controlled by one of our instructors) were we were faced with a real-life situation. During these scenarios we had to  decide how best to handle that situation. Some scenarios required us to deploy less lethal force (like a taser) or lethal force (like a firearm), but some also require no force whatsoever.

I’ll tell you one thing I learned in class, it ain’t easy to be a cop. The decisions they have to make under pressure like that is not something everyone can do.

Week 8 – Finale and Graduation

Our last class was spent celebrating the completion of the course. We received our certificated from the Police Chief, Robert Jonsen, got some PAPD swag (a hat and a pin), took a class picture, and completed our course evaluation.

Along with the celebration we had an open Q & A session. We got to ask questions about whatever we wanted, comment, on our ride along and on any class or non-related class topics that had to do with the Palo Alto Police Department.

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Overall, I think this was an incredibly valuable class that others should take. The information we learn is not something known to many other citizens. We learned so much about the risks they take everyday to keep us safe, we learned about their thought process, how they make judgement calls, and so much more. What we see on CSI, Law and Order, Blue Bloods and other shows isn’t what actually happens in real life, in fact it’s not close at all and in the class you’ll learn exactly how and why.

The work that police men and women do in our communities is incredible important. They maintain order and protect our community members, they make split-second decisions that may be ethically and legally complex and may call for advanced tactics and coordination. By taking this course I can promise that you will leave with a different perspective and a new understanding on the police department.

Thank you PAPD for this great course and congratulations Class 29!

Picture from PAPD Twitter Page