by Tammy Swanson
KANEVILLEâ€”After Pat Hillâ€™s business, Hillâ€™s Country Store in Kaneville, was burglarized more than a year ago, she wondered why it took the police so long to take fingerprints. She had many other questions about the policing process, too, and found the answers by participating in the Citizens Police Academy that the Kane County Sheriff’s Department offers.
“(Sheriff) Pat Perez told me about it. He said it would be really cool,â€ Hill said.
And she found that to be true.
She liked the Citizen Police Academy so much, she was disappointed when the 10-week, weekly program ended this spring.
“I looked forward to it (class),â€ Hill said. â€œI hoped it was going longer.â€
She learned a lot, including the reason for the fingerprint results delay.
â€œNow, I know,â€ Hill said. â€œIt’s backlogged. The state is so backlogged with handling everything unless it is a violent crime. Mine was just vandalism.”
The academy gave Hill look into the life of a police officer. She learned how police officers train, as well as what constitutes their daily job duties. The academy also teaches about the different divisions in the Sheriff’s Department, including K-9, SWAT, 911, crime scene investigation, evidence, corrections, patrol and criminal.
“You get to see all the aspects of everything,â€ Hill said.
One of the highlights of the class for Hill was to ride along with a patrol deputy and see how the officer would handle different situations.
“When we went on patrol and had to pretend to stop people, I had to stop a guy who had a gun tucked away in the front seat and he flipped me off,â€ she said. â€œI had to pretend when he was pulling the gun and say, â€˜Put your hands on the wheelâ€™ and pretend to pull my fake gun out on him.”
Participants even had an opportunity to fire real guns.
“I had never touched a gun before in my life; I had never shot a gun before in my life, and I got to in the simulator,â€ Hill said. â€œI got to do the assault rifle, the pistol and the tazer. They were so heavy. You would not believe how heavy a gun is.â€
She also enjoyed the the K-9 unit class.
“They (the Sheriffâ€™s Department) have these dogs from Hungary or Germany,â€ Hill said. â€œYou have to speak to them in that language. They are trained that way.â€
Participants also had a chance to drive a patrol car and wear a bulletproof vest.
In addition to all she learned by participating in the academy, the classes made Hill respect police officers more.
â€œI totally gained so much from it,” said Hill.
Through the academy, Hill gained insight into how risky a police officerâ€™s role can be.
“I have a deeper appreciation for how dangerous their job is,â€ Hill said.
To participate in the Citizens Police Academy, a person must live or work in unincorporated Kane County, be 18 years or older, have no felony convictions or any misdemeanor arrests within a year of application.
“You have to, of course, be fingerprinted and your name is put through the database to make sure you are not wanted as a felon or anything like that,” said Hill.
The Citizens Police Academy is free and allows 20 students per session. All of the police officers who teach the classes donate their time for the program.
After graduating from the academy program, Hill decided to establish a Neighborhood Watch in Kaneville focusing on communication and education.
“We want to start (one) in the area because we had a rash of break-ins a couple months ago where locks were cut off garages and stuff stolen from sheds,” Hill said.
Next session starts Sept. 1
Sept. 1 through Nov. 3
6 to 9 p.m.
Kane County Sheriffâ€™s Department Sgt. John Grimes, Pat Hill, and Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez pose for a picture after Hill completed the Kane County Citizens Police Academyâ€”A 10-week course offered by the Sheriffâ€™s Department. Courtesy Photo