BUCKHANNON – While growing up, I was always taught that police officers are here to protect us and never that they were to be feared – so I am especially happy to report I am a member of the Buckhannon Citizen Police Academy.
Classes for this began last Wednesday, March 13, at the Buckhannon Police Department and will continue for eight more weeks.
Why did I want to participate in this course? Simply because I believe the old adage that, “you don’t know a person until you walk a mile in their shoes.”
I wanted to learn about what motivates people to enter this profession, what kind of training they complete, what some of the rules and procedures are that they must follow. Also, what does the typical day of a policeman look like? How do they prepare themselves to go out there and keep residents like you and me safe?
What I found during the first night of the training is most of the people attending the Citizens Academy want to complete the course so they can become members of VIPS – the Volunteers in Police Service.
This fine group is a partnership between the Buckhannon City Police Department, the Upshur County Office of Emergency Management, the Upshur County Citizen Corps Council and the Upshur County Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT.
VIPS members are volunteers from the community who assist the police department during larger scale events. They are trained in first aid, CPR, basic search-and-rescue, basic firefighting, traffic and crowd management and basic disaster response.
They assist the police with public relations matters, searches and rescues, disaster response, investigations and traffic management and crowd assistance during community events.
Buckhannon Police Officers Angel McCauley and Donald “Sam” Kraemer filled us in on what it takes to become a city police officer for Buckhannon; they discussed what it’s like to travel to Charleston and spend 16 weeks in the State Police Academy.
That training, which seemed to be more like Army Boot Camp, is followed up by 12 weeks of field training where they ride along with a seasoned police officer to learn the ropes.
Not surprisingly, we learned that a great majority of police work today includes pages and pages of paperwork – and that calls to the Buckhannon Police Department have doubled in number since 2018.
Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory said he started his career more than 22 years ago and said he enjoys not only the Citizens Police Academy, but also the Youth Police Academy.
“I am a real big believer in community policing,” he said. “One of my passions is the Citizens Police Academy as well as the Youth Academy. We do those every other year for youth in the middle and high school students. We started this in 2013.”
Gregory said the VIPS program grew out of the Citizens Police Academy.
“I believe VIPS are a godsend,” he said. “They help us out tremendously with events throughout the year, whether it is 5K races, events during the Strawberry Festival, administrative tasks around the office or in ride-alongs with the officers. VIPS have been instrumental during these tasks and they are a major component of the Police Department.”
Here are some services the BPD offers: they operate a lost-and-found, they offer copies of offense and accident reports and for $5 and they offer fingerprinting services from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
If you are going to be out of town, you can contact the Buckhannon Police Department and they will have a patrol car pass by to check on your home while you are away.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Citizens Police Academy is welcome to call the Buckhannon Police Department at 304-472-5723 or visit online at www.buckhannonpolice.com.
Stop back each week as I share interesting tidbits and things I learn about these wonderful folks who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe.