Citizens’ Police Academy

The Town of Hamburg Police Department currently conducts a Citizens Police Academy once a year. The academy is designed to give public insight into the functions, operations, and the role of a Police Officer. The academy runs for eight weeks, one night a week (usually Wednesdays) for two hours (7 pm to 9 pm). Class size is limited and selection requires an application be filled out by prospective candidates. For more information contact Captain Todd Ehret at 716-648-5111 ext. 2614.

The following is an article that appeared in the Hamburg Sun on the department's first academy.

Hamburg Police Academy offers residents a chance to experience life through the eyes of the law

By Felice E. Krycia

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a police officer?

There is an old Sioux Proverb that says, "Before I judge my neighbor, let me walk a mile in his moccasins," and on that premise, 10 members of the Hamburg community (which included taxpayer association members, a neighborhood watch member, Hamburg Chamber of Commerce members, a vice president of an insurance agency, a Hilbert student and myself) were given the opportunity to walk in the shoes of some of the members of the Hamburg Police Department as part of the first Hamburg Citizens Police Academy.

"We thought this would be a great opportunity not only for the police but also for the citizens to work together," said Hamburg Police Detective Sgt. William Scully, who ran the program as his last project. He retired the day after graduation, following 32 years of service.

"Overall, this is a great vehicle to be able to build a better relationship between the police and the citizens we serve," Scully said.

For eight weeks, the class met at the Hamburg Police Department and were introduced to different aspects of police work.

On that first evening, Police Chief Carmen Kesner welcomed the class and gave an overview of what they could expect in the next eight weeks.

The First Graduating Class
On February 27, the first Town of Hamburg Citizen Police Academy class graduated. Various members of the community were invited to attend the inaugural eight week course, which included a myriad of classes to give an up close and personal look into the workings of the town's police force. Pictured is the graduating class first row from left: Chuck Bader, Tina Kilian, Felice Krycia and Betty Newell. Second row: Mark Byrne, John Werely, Detective Sgt. William Scully, Joe Kilian, Bill Doetterl and Alex Wilshaw. Not pictured is Laura Hahn.

First up was to learn what the basic requirements are to become a police officer in the Town of Hamburg.

One needs to have 60 credited hours from a college, pass a civil service exam, be under 35 years of age and attend the 20 week Police Academy Program.

For the next 16 weeks you are in the Field Training Program, working with town officers who have volunteered to help train the "rookies" on how things work.

Each new officer must complete a one year probationary period on the job before they can join the union and are nor longer considered "rookies."

The Citizen's Police Academy got to experience a small sample of this intense training.

Our classes ran the gamut from learning what the road patrol do and how they handle various situations to making life and death decisions in mock scenarios.

We were able to participate in a mock crime scene investigation, where Detective Todd Ehret showed how evidence is collected and secured.

Here, the members of the class were able to not only see how evidence is collected at a crime scene, but were able to participate in collecting fingerprints and other evidence.

Then there was the evening the class visited the dispatch center and observed how routine and emergency calls are handled.

"That the dispatchers are able to do their jobs as efficiently as they do in that small space and with such antiquated equipment is amazing," said John Werely, director of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce.

According to Scully, there are plans in the works to relocate the dispatch center from the back of the town hall and to upgrade the decades old equipment.

Another evening was split between meeting with Hamburg Justice Gerry Gorman and hearing how the court system works, learning from Assistant Chief Michael Williams how vehicle accidents are investigated, and then meeting with Hamburg's Domestic Violence Advocate Jennifer Kosmowski.

"We receive at least two domestic violence calls a day every day of the year," said Williams. "If our police officers can make an arrest, we do."

"This police department is very supportive of our work," said Kosmowski. "It has made a difference."

One of the most emotional evenings was when Lt. Jim Koch shared his experiences with the class on what happened the night of September 9, 2002.

That was the night when Koch had to use lethal force during a high speed car jacking,.

"It was unbelievable to witness what he had to go through," said Joe Kilian of the United Council of Taxpayers. "That gave me a better impression on how dangerous this job really is."

The class members were given their own chance to test their reflexes and split-second decision making skills at the Police Academy at Erie Community College-North Campus.

For that night, everyone got a taste of one area of training all police officers experience, the "Shoot, don't shoot" scenarios.

Checking Out The Evidence
As part of the Citizen Police Academy run by the Hamburg Police Department, Tina Kilian and Laura Hahn listen to Detective Todd Ehret give them some pointers on how to collect evidence at a crime scene.

We were given a special Glock handgun, identical to what the Hamburg Police Officers are issued.

This gun shot a laser at a special screen, which registered the hits and reacted to them.

After some target shooting, we all were given the opportunity to respond to "typical" police calls.

What we learned in a real hurry is that there is no such thing as a "typical" call.

Every scenario has the potential of violence which could culminate in someone's death, including your own.

We were given domestic violence calls, school invasion, irate people in a business, robberies, traffic stops, vagrants and just plain odd behavior.

For myself, it was amazing to be put into a situation where, at any minute, the person in front of you could either pull the trigger of a gun pointed at you, swing a hatchet or knife at you or your partner or surrender, and you had to decide in a split second how to handle the situation.

In my case, I did not have to shoot anyone, they surrendered as ordered, but some of my class mates were not as lucky and they were either shot, or the person they were trying to rescue was killed.

It was a nerve racking experience and gave us all a very clear insight into the potentially lethal aspect of the job.

Another evening, Lt. Kevin Trask and Detective Glenn Zawierucha showed us some of the latest drug paraphernalia they are finding.

Looking in Boxes

"We used to be reactive, arresting the people for drug possession," said Zawierucha. "Now we are going to the west side of Buffalo, going to the sources and working to get the drugs before they come out here."

According to Trask, the majority of all crimes committed are drug related or drug facilitated.

"Drugs plus money equals violence" is an equation the police officers are seeing more and more.

Another trend is more abuse of prescription drugs, many being taken from family members.

Overall, Hamburg Police are looking to be proactive in the fight against drugs and the message they are sending out?

"If you bring it into my town, we will arrest you," said Zawierucha.

Another evening was spent listening to Frontier School Resource Officer Paul Randall and the challenges with being in a high school.

"This is a proactive initiative," said Randall. "I am there to prevent, educate and intervene. This is an attempt to personally reconnect with the students.

"I am a positive role model for these students, in some cases one of the few they have. Plus, my presence in the school sends a message that violence is not acceptable," Randall added.

For many in our class who do not have children in school, this presentation was a real eye-opener.

Other areas discussed during the Academy was Megan's Law, sex offender registration and driving while intoxicated arrest procedures with Officer Scott Fraser, Emergency Response with Lt. Peter Dienes, fingerprinting and booking procedures with Detectives Tom Best, Jr. and Mike Sauer, patrol operations with Lt. Greg Wickett and an optional CPR certification class taught by Officer Nicholas Ugale.

After the eight week program, everyone was asked for their input and all 10 members gave the course high marks.

"I though it was exceptional," said Mark Byrne, vice president of Vanner Insurance Agency and the sponsor of this class. "I have a new found respect for the department. Every presenter was well prepared and had a great story."

"I know a number of police and have worked with some over the years," said Bill Doetterl of the Brookgardens Community Watch Program. "I came away knowing a lot more than I thought I would."

"This was very informative," said Tina Kilian, from the Lakeshore Taxpayers Association. "You knew they did all this but not the procedures.

"Det. Scully did such a great job with this, I was just amazed and I'm telling everyone I know about it."

This was an exciting experience for Hilbert College student Alex Wilshaw, who is in the criminal justice program majoring in economic crime investigation.

"I could never do what they do. I couldn't imagine doing what they do," said Wilshaw.

"But I know that with this experience, there is no question about the faith I have in this department."

"This is a real brotherhood and Hamburg is blessed to have a police department like this," said Byrne.

According to Kesner, they would like to run the Citizen Police Academy twice a year and are planning do another class later this year.

"Scully put a lot of effort into this and with him now retired, we will have to get someone else to step in," said Kesner. "We will take everyone's feedback, tweak it a little and then hopefully offer it again later on in the year."

If you are interested in attending the Police Academy, write a letter to the Town of Hamburg Police Department, 6100 South Park Avenue, Hamburg, NY 14075.

They will put the request on file and will notify you when they are prepared for the next class.