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).

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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!

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Picture from PAPD Twitter Page

 

PAPD Citizens Police Academy – Part 2

Sit-A-Long & Ride-A-Long

I don’t think I mentioned the Sit-A-Long & Ride-A-Long in the PAPD Citizens Police Academy – Part 1 post, so here I’ll talk a little bit about each experience.

Sit-A-Long with Palo Alto Dispatchers

This was a really interesting experience.  The job of a dispatcher is incredibly stressful and complex, and their ability to multitask is remarkable. I sat in a room with four dispatchers, each with about 4-6 screens and saw how they worked; receiving calls, listening to the radio, dispatching police, medics, firefighters, and updating the system. It wasn’t a very “busy night”, but I did get to hear many different calls.

Ride-A-Long

The Rid-A-Long experience was my favorite activity! Our ride-a-longs are only supposed to be 4 hours, but I had such a great time with the Sargent that he let me ride for another two hours.

I got to see a great part of how police men/women work and how they put their lives at great risk to keep our communities safe. I arrived at the station just before six and was introduced to all the officers that were working that shift. I was on shift with 3 officers, a trainee, and the K-1 dog. We then went through briefing, where they read and discuss what had happened during the last four days. After that they checked their gear and we got into our cars! I can’t say much about what we did because of privacy concerns, but we did make quiet a lot of stops.

The night shift was a great experience and I’m looking forward to the next time I’ll be able to ride-a-long with an officer (thinking about requesting a morning shift next time).

PAPD Citizens Police Academy – Part 1

Over the past year I’ve taken a keen interest in law enforcement and crime investigation  (I have podcasts, television shows, and documentaries to thank for this) and in December of 2017 my mom shared with me an application to the Palo Alto Police Department Citizens Police Academy. I read through the course description and was immediately hooked.

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This citizens academy is a free 8-week 3 hour course that’s designed to foster understanding and communication between community members and the Palo Alto police. I’m in a class with 20 other citizens, I’m one of the youngest, and we’re about halfway through the course and I’m loving it! 

In this post I’m sharing four topics we’ve through out the first four weeks. Bear in mind the courses are three hours long, they contain much more information than what I’ve shared below.

If anything of this interest you look for a Citizens Police Academy in your home town or nearby, I know there are many other departments that have academy’s like this one.

Here’s what I’ve learned in week 1-4 of the PAPD Citizens Police Academy:

Quick Orientation

We went over program expectations, logistics, and the curriculum. Met the new PAPD chief, Robert Jonsen, assistant chief, Palo Alto K9, and we get a tour of the police station (patrol briefing room, dispatch center, Emergency Operations Center,  detective bureau, Records bureau, and the holding facilities for prisoners).

Week 1 – Dispatch and Our 24-Hour Communications Center

Remember the movie The Call with Halle Barry? Well, after I first saw that movie I thought two things: one that’s got to be a very stressful job and two, but a rewarding job (you’re saving someone’s life!). Boy was I right but at the same time so wrong.

During our first week we heard from the Mark Chase, the Communications Manager. We heard about the history of the job, how it has progressed over time and how it’s still evolving. Did you know soon you’ll be able to text your emergency? In fact Oakland, CA is already testing it out!

Mark also spoke about the process of becoming a dispatchers, the classes and in house training they go through before flying solo. He spoke about the Palo Alto Center and the  remodeling that just occurred in their office.

We also got to hear two real 9-1-1 calls:

  • a woman going into labor at home, instructions on how to deliver the baby were being given to the caller.
  • an elderly women in distress, locked herself out of her house, seamed to have some form of dementia, and made some suicide references.

Here are some other notes I found interesting from our class:

  • This job is extremely stressful and not many dispatchers make it to retirement
  • The Palo Alto dispatchers take animal control, utility, non-emergency police line, and 911 calls.

Week 2 – Patrol Procedure, Laws of Arrest, Search & Seizure

Police can “do whatever they want” when it comes to stopping people and searching people, right?…WRONG!

In our second class we learned all about police patrol, what their “beat system” looks like (Palo Alto is split in four sections or beats), and the types of calls they handle. We discussed when they can and cannot contact, detain, and arrest people; and when they can and cannot search people, their vehicles, their property, and their homes.

We also talked through this real scenario of a crime from 2017 in Palo Alto and discussed what considerations must be taken into account before making an arrest. I definitely left this class with a better understanding about the realities of patrol work. It’s not easy.

Week 3 – Police Academy and PAPD Hiring Process

In class I learned becoming a cop is not in any way an easy process. Getting hired is just the beginning and even that can take up to six months, then comes the academy, a few weeks of  in house training, and then that’s followed by a few more weeks in the Field Training Program.

We heard from three different officers this week:

  • Lieutenant James Reifschneider – in charge of Personnel & Training Unit (responsible for recruiting, hiring, and training).
  • Agent Marco Estrada – works in P&T as a training supervisor (in house training).
  • Agent Chris Correia – a Field Training Officer assigned to the patrol division.

Here are some interesting notes from class:

  • The hiring process can take up to 3-6 months (includes paperwork, interviews, background investigation, polygraphs, and more)
  • One of the most difficult parts of the academy is the driving portion, this is were many cadets fail (this comes one month before graduation).
  • Most women struggle with the getting over the 6 foot wall  – lack of upper body strength.
  • Field Training is about 16 weeks  – your graded daily and most of your day involves writing reports

By the way, if you’re interested in becoming a police, PAPD is hiring.

Week 4 – Community Relations, Public Affairs, and Police Accountability

Captain Zach Perron spoke about three different, but very important topics. We saw the new Palo Alto Recruiting Video and we discussed some of the reviews it’s received.

We learned how the department investigates complaints (they only received 2 in 2017) and how can they “investigate their own” fairly and objectively. Captain Perron also shared the importance of social media and their goals: to enhance engagement and build followers in preparation for a crisis.

Here are some notes from class:

  • How many camera’s are on a police car?…5 and some cops are now testing out the body cameras.
  • PAPD has their own mobile app where you can view a crime map, get alerts, and read news reports.
  • Captain Perron and an officer from Mt. View created social media guidelines for Police Departments that has been shared through out the country.
    • They’re all over social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Nextdoor, Youtube, and Nixel
  • PAPD launched a social media campaign #CopsLoveLemonadeStands back in 2015 – this has greatly helped build community relations. 

Hope you enjoyed my recap on the academy. There will be more coming soon including a Sit-A-Long & Ride-A-Long!

Mindhunter

If you haven’t already heard about it or started watching it, Netflix released Mindhunter on October 13th and I’ve already binged the entire season.

This new 10-episode crime drama puts an original spin on contemporary police procedurals. It stars Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany and is based on the 1996 book Mind Hunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by ex-FBI agents Mark Olshaker and John E. Douglas (I’ve already ordered the book!).

It examines the beginnings of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit in the 1970s, it invites viewers in to discover how the term ‘serial killer’ was developed and how the FBI fine-tuned its methods over the years. This show is the perfect combination of crime and intense psychological drama (my two favorite subjects).

Have you started it yet?

True Crime Podcast: Dirty John

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Dirty John is a true story about seduction, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival. From the L.A. Times. Reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard.

I don’t want to spoil the story for those who haven’t listened yet so here’s a brief summary:

Dirty John is about the twisted story of Debra Newell Stewart, a divorceé in Los Angeles who meets the too-good-to-be-true John Meehan on a dating site. They hit it off and things move at a really fast pace, but something is awry from the start…

Told based on accounts from Debra and her family and friends, Dirty John is a wild ride – and it’s completely unmissable.

Almost immediately after they started dating, Debra and John moved in together, and her family mistrusted him right away. In the first chapter of the story, which you can also read on the L.A. Times website (more information below), her eldest daughter, Jacquelyn, calls him a creep and tells her mother to kick him out when he’s basically living with her.

Within five weeks of dating, they got a place together, and after two months of the relationship they tied the knot in Las Vegas.

I finished the podcast today and wanted to wait until the end to give it an accurate review. I listen to lots of true crime podcasts and while this one was different, six part series released daily, it has become one of my favorites. I couldn’t stop listening, it was so good!

What I found to be most captivating about Dirty John is how Debra’s story creates unease; you know from the start that there’s more going on than meets the eye,  but getting to the heart of that mystery takes time and builds tension. Think of the addictive Serial narrative, but with something far more likely to happen to you!

Dirty John is now available on all major podcasting platforms with all episodes ready for download.

If you’re interested in reading Dirty John you can do so below:

 

 

 

Magnolia Market at the Silos

It’s no surprise that I am head over heels over Chip and Jo! From their heart, to their beautiful family, to their renovated farm-style homes.  I love them! So, when Delaney proposed that we meet at Austin and drive to Waco for a reunion, I jumped right up and booked my ticket!

Magnolia Market at the Silos is a place where visitors have the unique opportunity to see a show they’ve grown to love come to life.  HGTV’s Fixer Upper launched Joanna and Chip Gaines into the national spotlight. Since the show’s success, they’ve expanded on their initial Magnolia Market concept which began as the Little Shop on Bosque and turned it into the beautiful 2.6 acre property that it is today.

The property, located in the heart of downtown Waco, is home to the Market itself, Silos Baking Co., food trucks, a garden, Magnolia Seed + Supply, the big green lawn, and much more. There is so much to see and enjoy everywhere you go on the beautiful Silos grounds.

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On My Radar

So much has happened this week and for most of I’ve been kind a quiet nervous wreck. Between work, tracking Irma, and keeping in touch with friends and family in FL I already feel exhausted. However, I’m escaping reality for a few days and traveling with a sorority sister, Delaney, to explore Austin and Waco, Texas.

I spent all day yesterday flying to Austin and today we’re off to do some exploring in Waco, TX!

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Here’s what’s been on my radar this week:

ONE // Darci Lynn on America’s Got Talent

This little girl is bursting with talent! Not only does she have an insane voice, but she also sings as a ventriloquist… aka she doesn’t even open her mouth. It’s unreal.

TWO // Apple’s Newest Products

I had a great time Wednesday night attending The Vergecast live in San Francisco. Nilay Patel, Dieter Bohn, and Paul Miller talked about their experience at Apple’s new campus and on the newest apple products, the iPhone 8, 10, the newest Apple watch, and the Apple TV 4K. Apple has come out with some great new products that I can’t wait to get my hands on, but the new feature I’m most excited to try is the new Animoji’s on the iPhone X. I know the price tag is pretty hefty, but considering how much I use my phone and that it essentially serves as a computer for me throughout the day, I think it’s worth it.

THREE // Kristen Bell Making the Most of Hurricane Irma

The thought of being in Florida during Hurricane Irma is nerve-wracking, but Kristen Bell, who was in Orlando filming a movie when Irma hit, helped entertain stranded guests with a sing-a-long, Bingo, wheelchair races and more! She gave an update on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Monday night from the hotel and boy does it sound like everyone is having fun, especially her side piece John.

FOUR // Target 
in collaboration with Chip & Joanna Gaines 

I’m currently on my way to Waco to visit the Magnolia Market, so I’m sure you can image how excited I was when Chip and Joanne announced a partnership with Target, Hearth & Hand with Magnolia. Items arrive in stores and online on November 5th.

FIVE // PBTeen’s Harry Potter Collection

PBteen has teamed up with Warner Bros. to introduce an exclusive home décor collection inspired by the world of Harry Potter and it is straight out of your wildest dreams. I’m actually freaking out because the collection is AMAZING! The collection features more than 100 pieces and OMG the Deathly Hallows pillow.

 

On My Radar

It’s been a surprisingly good week over here. It was low-key, and I loved it. It’s just what I needed because my weekend is jam packed!

For now, here’s a picture of Teddy. We just celebrated 3 months together this past week!

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Here’s what’s been on my radar this week:

ONE // Carpool Karaoke: Sophie Turner & Maisie Williams

This week’s Carpool Karaoke guests hail from a land further away than any who have preceded them: Westeros. Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams filmed their appearance on the new Apple TV series. Thanks to that, us fans can see the two joking around like sisters who actually like one another—unlike their Thrones characters at the moment.

TWO // Target Maternity Shoot

I may not be a mom yet, but I couldn’t resist this maternity shoot. This mom has upped the ante, opting for a shoot in one of the most beautiful places there is: Target. Page Miller posed with her daughter Avery at a Target in Missouri for one of the realest, most creative shoots I’ve ever seen.

THREE // Lilly Pulitzer’s After Party Sale

In case you missed the announcement, Lilly’s BIGGEST sale of the year starts on Monday! 

FOUR // The American Horror Story: Cult Trailer 

After months of the traditional speculation over what American Horror Story’s next season will entail, AHS: Cult has finally released its first real look at its new mystery.

AHS returns Sept. 5

FIVE // Athletes Unfiltered 

This video is exactly what I need for this upcoming weekend. This sh*t is hard. But those struggles, doubts, fears, tears, failures, and f-words are always worth it. Thank you Strava for the inspirational video.

Happy Friday, friends!

Meet Teddy!

I’ve always I wanted a puppy. I also knew that I was going to have to wait a bit before finally becoming a dog owner: transitioning into the real world, working insanely long hours, were just a few of the reasons. I definitely had that “itch,” but I knew I wasn’t ready for one.

Getting Teddy was one of those things that had been a long time coming, but ultimately felt like it happened oh-so-suddenly. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t completely scared. My family had a dog when I was younger, Terry, a big german Shepard, but they got him as an older dog and he passed away before I turned one, so puppies seemed kind of foreign to me…
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Nevertheless, Teddy was mine as of Saturday and it’s been a really fun and really exhausting couple of days! Puppies are great and adorable, but definitely a lot of work. It’s been so fun to watch his personality really come out. Teddy is super super super playful and loves to snuggle and cuddle.
I don’t think that all the reading and researching in the world will ever prepare you enough. Once the puppy landed in my arms for the first time, it was an overwhelming sense of responsibility, terror, and love. All mixed together. My biggest thing right now is that I’m super afraid of making mistakes with Teddy! But I’m taking it one day at a time and doing my absolute best. So far, so good. I get more comfortable every hour that passes…
I have tiny sized tennis balls and he finally figured out how to pick it up with his teeth…he’s so determined running after it.  We’re working on the potty training thing and it’s not exactly as bad as I thought it would be. (He’s so smart!) I will admit, I cannot wait until he sleeps through the night. Everyone, thankfully, warned me about being exhausted and they, unfortunately, were not kidding.
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Anyone have any tips for new puppies?

The Keepers

 

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The Keepers is an exhaustive real-crime documentary series about the murder of a nun in 1969, but also so much more. It’s the story about victims and their search for justice. It’s about giving them a chance to be heard over the loud denials of any and every official body.

In November 1969, a young nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, went missing from her Baltimore apartment. The following year she was discovered, lying on her back on a frozen hillside, far from home, her skull was broken in. No one has been able to conclusively say what happened to her until now.

In the series, we see interviews of key witnesses, police, local journalists and a few members of the church, and a group of dedicated sixtysomething former pupils of Sister Cathy, who band together to find out what happened.

What begins as a cold case unfolds into a horrific tale of systematic abuse, repressed memory and institutional rank-closing from the church, police and state prosecution department. In the version of events, no one is directly to blame, save for the obvious villain , Father Maskell, student counsellor at Archbishop Keough school, who inflicted years of sexual abuse on his students. Every attempt to indict him is deflected because – according to some victims – the police and even a local doctor were complicit.

Was Maskell, undeniably an appalling character, connected to Cesnik’s death? Are the witnesses everything they seem? Is this story less one of a murder and more of the cover-up that followed?

Let me know your thoughts on Netflix’s docu-series, The Keeper.