More than 15 years ago, area police chiefs saw a need for transparency to the public to learn what they do, why they do it, and how they do it. So, they formed the Metro Citizens Police Academy. Through this program, participants learn about the legal system and courts, use of force, defensive tactics, tasers, pursuit driving, firearms with range time, community policing, mental health response, officer-involved shooting lectures, internal affairs, and are able to participate in a handful of open discussions.
We were able to talk with Sergeant Tad Hoeschen of St. Cloud Police’s Community Engagement Division to learn more about the program, and sit in on the September class.
“We started the MCPA because there is an ongoing need to communicate with the public we serve and be open to conversation and criticism. We wanted the opportunity to meet with the public and explain and demonstrate the training that we receive initially and continuously, to perform our job duties… The discussions are always amazing and unpredictable. Each citizen brings their unique worldview and life experience to the group. Not only do we hopefully teach the citizens something, but inevitably, they teach us something as well.”
This program experience is a bit different for all participants and that is to be expected. “The MCPA is not designed to get people to blindly believe that everything that law enforcement does is right. We simply try to give our perspective and explain why we do what we do. There are so many laws and court decisions that guide our decision making and we simply want the ability to explain that. If at the end of the academy, participants learn solely to not snap to judgment and wait until the facts are known, then that is an amazing partnership, regardless if they agree with the outcome or not.”
Upon completing the course, participants are able to continue their education and support. There is an MCPA alumni association who not only support the ongoing academies and help discover additional ways to support area law enforcement agencies.
“We as law enforcement officers get the opportunity to work in one of the most amazing communities in the country, surrounded by citizens who support us and respect us. This is an opportunity for us to be transparent and let them into our lives to see that we are just humans who really love what we get the chance to do as our career. You do not have to agree with what law enforcement does on a day-to-day basis, but if you are willing to be open-minded and share your perspective so that we can find common ground to assist one another, then MCPA is right for you!”
If you’re interested in the Academy, applications open up around the 1st part of July. Applicants are subject to a brief background check since they have the opportunity for a ride-along with an on-duty officer. No felony convictions are allowed as part of the standard protocol. Typically each participating city (St Joseph, Waite Park, St Cloud, Sartell, and Sauk Rapids) have 5 to 6 seats available in the class. They try to keep it under 30 participants since there are a lot of hands-on activities. https://www.ci.stcloud.mn.us/851/Metro-Citizens-Police-Academy