When I graduated from the citizens’ police academy in 2003 and became a volunteer with the Livermore Police Department, I went through their daunting clearance process: fingerprinting, drug testing, and even a polygraph test. Fortunately, I passed the tests or I would have been denied access to the station.
As a volunteer I have many opportunities to work with the officers and to go on ride-alongs. The many thought-provoking encounters and learning experiences I’ve enjoyed have enabled me to write with a clearer understanding of police procedures. Role playing with the SWAT guys is fun. I’ve been shot at (rubber bullets and paint), handcuffed, and tossed to the ground. What one doesn’t do in the name of research to write a book.
For the past six years my assignment has been in the traffic department. Every Monday, dressed in my navy and khaki uniform, I pick up a radio and keys and hop into a volunteer police car. I cover two beats (isn’t that kick?) and head out to tag abandoned vehicles. Some of you may be familiar with those nasty orange warning stickers on the windshields. While covering my beats, I’m the eyes and ears for the police department and have only had to radio Dispatch a few times for officer assistance. The LPD has been very supportive of my writing and generous in answering my many inquiries about police procedures.
If the opportunity presents itself in your community, I encourage you to sign up for a citizens’ police academy like the one sponsored by the Livermore Police Department. It’s an exciting and eye-opening experience.