This guest article comes from Jeff Dickerman, a participant in the Lowell Citizen Police Academy.
Lowell Chief of Police Steve Bukala has organized the Lowell Citizen Police Academy for citizens interested in the day-to-day operations of their local police department. The 8-week course began last Thursday night and will include classroom, investigative, range, and field training exercises including a ride-along opportunity. All are designed to introduce Academy participants to the challenges and rewards of modern police work.
The first weekly session began with an introduction of the officers providing the training and the Academy “cadets.” Participants include one of our Lowell City Councilmen, a local welder and former Marine, a local machinist hoping to better understand his daughter’s chosen profession as a police officer, and a couple of local business owners among others. Personally, I volunteered for the program simply to understand how we, as citizens, can better support our local police. The recent “war on police” has taken its toll on the profession and many of us feel the need to promote and support a professional police force as the first and best defense for a civil society.
Future sessions include training by Sgt. Hurst (LPD training, firearms, and airsoft range), Officer Gordy Lauren (Police motorcycle program, motor carrier enforcement, dash and body cams), Detective Scot VanSolkema (criminal investigations, evidence processing, mock crime scene investigation), Officer Dustin Brown (use of force, traffic enforcement, accident scene investigations), and several others. There were more than a few comments regarding Officer Brown’s upcoming TASER training session.
For the first session Chief Bukala covered the history of the department over his tenure since the 1990s, budgetary changes over the years, and criminal stats. Much of the work involved in “Police Science” today really is a science with data collection and data analysis becoming a major contributor to the allocation of resources. Using the State of Michigan’s statistical database with local Lowell data gathered over the past few years, Chief Bukala and his staff know when to have an officer on patrol and where accidents and possible criminal activity are most likely to occur.
With budget constraints always a concern for the City, Chief Bukala and the department have been able to reduce their funding levels to those last seen in the early 2000s. The percentage of the city budget spent on the police department now falls slightly below the regional average among a dozen or so municipal police forces. At the same time the Lowell Police Department continues to provide a higher level of accountability to the City while working cooperatively with the Kent County Sheriff Department and Michigan State Police.
Creative funding has included grant requests from the Lowell Community Fund to help purchase police cruisers, salvage title inspections which bring revenue back into the department, and an active ongoing pursuit of free or low-cost government and military surplus equipment. Recently the department received two police motorcycles (one with less than 5,000 miles) at no cost due to these efforts. Chief Bukala simply had to make the drive to pick up these two new additions to the fleet.
The first session was a bit of an overview. Next week’s session will include the requirements of becoming a police officer, ongoing police training, Lowell’s Field Training Officer program, department firearm instruction, and simple range scenario training.
Further Reading on the Lowell Police Department