By PETER KASPARI
With summer winding down and fall quickly approaching, the Fort Dodge Police Department is accepting applications for the Fort Dodge/Webster County Citizen's Academy.
The eight-week class, which will be held for the third time this October, offers regular citizens a behind-the-scenes look at different law enforcement and public safety agencies in the Fort Dodge and Webster County area.
Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody, who has been coordinating Citizen's Academy since it began in Fort Dodge last September, said it was known before the second class had even ended that there would be a third one offered.
"By our reviews and the evaluations we've received, it's been very successful and positive in the eyes of those who have been a part of it," he said. "And I think it's been a valuable resource for us as well."
Fall 2012 Citizen's Academy
To download the application, visit http://www.fortdodgeiowa.org/egov/docs/1344610801-102935.pdf
To view the flyer, visit http://www.fortdodgeiowa.org/egov/docs/1344610700-640136.pdf
Carmody said the class allows people to learn about all the agencies and what they do to keep everybody safe.
Not much change is expected with the upcoming class, he said.
"There will be updates to some of the specific classes such as updated information," Carmody said. "We always look for new and better ways to make it more interesting to help the students understand what's going on."
Feedback from the class also helps decide what changes should be made, according to Carmody.
As of Wednesday, Carmody said six applications had been received.
"We'll top it off at 25," he said. "It's like any instructor-to-student ratio; the lower the number of students there are, the more impactful it is."
Carmody added Citizen's Academy has been helped out by Crime Stoppers and the police association, as well as the vendors, some of whom provide food for free.
"That's not to mention the hours that all the staff and different agencies have given to the class," he said.
Barb Krug, of Humboldt, was one of the members of the spring 2012 Citizen's Academy class.
A probation and parole officer, Krug said she'd heard about the class through her work and was interested in seeing what it was like for herself.
"It really enlightened me on what each department does and how they all work together," she said. "Even though I work with all of them, I didn't realize all the extensive training that everybody does. As a citizen, it was really enlightening to see that Fort Dodge has all this available to them."
Krug said what impressed her the most was seeing how well-prepared the agencies are if an emergency comes up.
"When we went into dispatch and saw how they notify people for emergencies, we also saw how well-equipped all the departments are and the quick responses we have," she said. "Fort Dodge is really equipped to handle what needs to be handled."
She added it's something she would recommend to everyone.
"It's a very good program, and I wish everybody could do it," she said.
Craig and Carol Stripling, of Clare, attended Citizen's Academy together after learning about it through a church bulletin.
Craig Stripling said they signed up because they were curious to learn how the public safety partners worked together.
"It was very eye-opening," he said. "You don't realize all the things that go on behind the scenes and all the extra work they do. The only time we see these people is if you need them, and it was amazing to see everything they do."
Craig Stripling added the information he and his wife learned was very valuable.
"We've talked to a lot of people about it and they've said they would like to participate," he said. "It's too bad the public can't see what goes on behind the scenes and what everybody has to do to keep everyone safe. I think people would have a much different attitude if they saw all the work they do."
Carol Stripling agreed.
"I've recommended it to many of my friends, and I know that four of them have already signed up," she said. "We looked forward to going to it every week. It was so varied because every week was something different, and it was very, very interesting. We never once looked at our watches to see when it was done."
Craig Stripling added that he was initially concerned that he wouldn't be able to attend all the classes because of a prior conflict, but changed his plans after he attended the first class.
"After that first meeting, I canceled all my other meetings so I could make sure I went to every one," he said.
Carmody said he's looking forward to the third class.
"I'm excited about meeting the new students and getting to know the members of the community," he said. "It's important for them to understand how we work together to make Fort Dodge a safer place."
Applications are due Sept. 21, and the class will be held on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. from Oct. 2 to Nov. 20. The applications can be found on the Fort Dodge Police Department's website and the city of Fort Dodge's Facebook page.