Sample learnings from the 2019 Citizens Police Academy

by Erin Nauta

LANSING, Ill. (March 12, 2019) – The Citizens Police Academy is a free 10-week class taught at the police station, by police officers. It’s a once-a-year opportunity for Lansing residents to gain an in-depth view of the workings of the Lansing Police Department. The items below are sample learnings from the past several weeks of class.

TRAFFIC STOPS

For police, the most dangerous contact is a traffic stop. It’s the scenario a police officer has the least control over. The driver may be a parent heading home from work, or a drug dealer with a trunk full of contraband. Criminals often have guns, but law-abiding citizens may also; the officer approaching the car doesn’t know which you are. A law-abiding citizen can get angry; a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol can get out of control. If the traffic stop is because a car fits the description of one involved in a crime, things can blow up rapidly into a life-threatening situation. Students in the Citizens Police Academy learn what officers go through during a traffic stop, so they can be sympathetic and courteous next time they are pulled over.

CRIME-FREE HOUSING PROGRAM

Rental property can be a magnet to criminals. They can move frequently, and there’s potentially less financial risk if they are apprehended because asset forfeiture doesn’t apply to rented property. But Lansing has an answer to this situation in the Crime-Free Housing program.

Landlords in Lansing must be certified by taking a class taught by the police. As well, renters must sign an addendum to the lease that says if they engage in any level of crime or misdemeanor, they’ve broken the lease. They don’t need to be convicted, or tried, or even arrested. A preponderance of evidence is all that’s needed, and the renter can be evicted in 10 days (without the addendum, the eviction process takes 5 months). Harassment and disorderly conduct are grounds for eviction. Even shoplifting counts—the criminal act doesn’t have to happen in the rental property. If the landlord doesn’t evict, he can be fined until he does. By using the lease addenda—a civil action—criminals can be pushed out of town.

Under Fair Housing laws, landlords can’t discriminate against people for race, color, religion, gender, handicap, family status, or national origin. But behavior is not protected. Previous evictions and poor credit score are legitimate reasons to refuse to rent to a prospective tenant.

K9 PROGRAM

The LPD’s K9 Officer program is hugely successful; a single K9-assisted drug/property seizure amounting to millions of dollars paid for the the entire police campus.

Officer Keith Haan works with Rico, a 3 year-old Belgian Malinois. Rico is a multi-purpose dog. He can disperse a crowd, track a fugitive, restrain a combative suspect, identify multiple types of drugs, conduct a building search, and find a discarded or hidden weapon.

Police dogs work with just one person; dog and handler are a team. Officer and dog go through training together; as the dog is trained and learns, so does the handler. Rico is actually trained in an undisclosed foreign language so that someone else can’t issue commands. When he finds drugs, Rico signals by sitting or laying down. Rico’s reward is a ball—everything he does is play to him, and when he succeeds, he gets to play with the ball.

Some K9 facts:

  • Males are used more often for roles in which an aggressive display is desired. Females are often used for drug searches and similar procedures.
  • When requested to search a large area such as a school, area police departments bring their K9s, and 10 or 15 dogs will search at once.
  • At one time the LPD had 4 dogs. This breed has a lifespan of 10-12 years, but police work and injuries will shorten a dog’s work life, requiring the dogs to retire. Also, when K9 handlers retire, the dogs are retired with them. So right now there is just one dog.

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