Franklin - Over the past six years, a growing number of city residents have been helping police detect crime as well as spread the word about what law enforcement is all about.
The 12th Franklin Police Citizen Academy just added dozen or so alums to its rolls, making its growing support group swell to more than 150.
Captain Eric Schroeder heads the twice-a-year academy. He said the 12-week courses contribute to the understanding and appreciation of law enforcement.
"Many people are somewhat in the dark about what we do and why we do it," Schroeder said. "So we want to educate them."
A lot to learn
Schroeder said there is a lot of opportunities to shed light on some of the department operations.
"For example, people want to know why it may take two or three vehicles to be involved in a traffic stop," he said. "We go over scenarios where there may be more to it than a simple stop. For example, there may be warrants for the driver's arrest or drugs may be involved."
Participants learn much more, he said, including how and when officers use handcuffs and Tasers as well as how they process a crime scene.
The academy experience is valuable, even for a former officer like Ron Jeske, the group's alumni president.
A former member of the Milwaukee Police Department, Jeske also once was involved in the citizens group for the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department and currently still is connected as a citizen representative to the local office of the FBI.
"It really helps people understand what is going on and why police operate a certain way," Jeske said. "Franklin is changing in that it once was primarily a rural community that now is becoming more urban. Still, the officers here operate differently from Milwaukee because there is a lot more cross-training and not as many specialists.
"I think the dedication of the department to making the city a good place to live is fantastic."
Janet Evans, president of the School Board and board member of the alumni group, said she wanted to go through the training for three reasons.
"First, I was interested because I like to volunteer," she said. "Because I am a School Board member, I am interested in local government. Lastly, as a citizen I like to know what the force does."
She said the experience would be valuable to everyone.
"It's a free city service," Evans said. "I think everyone who has the opportunity should do this, to see what our officers do."
Part of the honors
The citizen component of policing also includes being part of an annual recognition of police officers.
Earlier in November, Officer Joseph Bath was recognized for performing CPR on a man at a local business until the Fire Department arrived. Also recognized were Oak Creek officers Daniel Heder, Joseph Demotto, Jesse Hintz and Steven Horn for their role in intervening in the Aug. 5 shooting at the Sikh Temple.
Citizen's Life Saving Awards were given to Patricia Golden Beckmann, a physician, and Justine Oldenburg, an emergency medical technician, who stabilized a young girl who was struck by a passing vehicle.
The Citizens Community Service Award was given to Rose Roderick, who saw a suspicious man exiting a neighbor's window with a duffel bag, followed him on her bicycle and saw him enter a nearby motel. She alerted police, who arrested the man.
"We decided to include the citizen awards in our annual honors for police because we wanted to emphasize that citizen involvement is just as important," Schroeder said.
Those who are interested in the Franklin Police Citizen Academy can call Capt. Eric Schroeder at (414) 425-2522.
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