By Sue Botos
Residents participating in the Rocky River Citizen Police Academy are getting more adventurous.
At the graduation celebration held May 28 at Memorial Hall in the Don Umerley Civic Center, Sgt. George Lichman, who heads the group, announced to the audience of family, friends and academy alumni that three of the nine “cadets” volunteered to be “tased,” and one considered a pepper spray blast, but thought better of it.
In addition, he said that for the first time, three graduates received honors for scoring 95 percent or better on the final exam.
Initiated in the summer of 2010, police Chief Kelly Stillman stated, “This is one of my prized possessions. We’ve nurtured this infant and it continues to grow,” he added, referring to Lichman as the “midwife” in the process.
Lichman noted that a number of applicants must be turned down each time a new twice-yearly session is offered. Optimally, he said, the class is kept to 10 participants at a time.
“They took that step that a lot of people don’t,” Stillman continued, referring to the current class as well as the 30 graduates who have formed the Citizen Police Alumni Association. Sid Solomon, secretary of the association’s executive board and member of the academy’s inaugural class, said that the idea for the group “began as an idea that gained momentum.” He noted that members of past classes got together and brainstormed about how they could continue to stay active and support police.
Soloman said that alumni have contributed to support for the K-9 unit, joined the police auxiliary unit and even planted flowers outside of the station. Stillman had said that the Citizen Police Acadamy receives no city funds, and that often Lichman “reaches into his own pocket” to keep the program going.
Lichman said he has tried to make the academy authentic, running it as close as possible to the actual police academy. Topics such as a day in the life of a police officer, department structure, special services, firearms, the municipal courts and Internet crime were covered during the 14-week session. In addition, cadets were required to have near-perfect attendance, keep a journal, ride with an on-duty patrolman and pass a 50-question exam.
New to this session was a self-defense unit, and Lichman noted that graduates were welcome to attend classes that had not been offered during their session.
Class president Bill Blough remarked that he moved to Rocky River in August and felt this would be a good way to get involved with the community. He said that while each class was scheduled for three hours, it wasn’t unusual for them to run much longer. “We couldn’t have had a better cross section of people,” he stated after the ceremony, noting that the group consisted of a wide range of people of different ages and backgrounds.
Blough noted the firearms unit, where students learned to load and shoot guns used by police, was his favorite. “They didn’t sugarcoat anything,” he noted, adding, “Marlene (Bergen) was shaking.”
Resident, local journalist and radio personality Michael McIntyre told the group, during his commencement address, that involved citizens are essential to communities like Rocky River. “Place matters,” he said, noting the “scary lesson on vigilance” learned recently on Cleveland’s Seymore Avenue. “How could that happen? Could that happen here? We hope it couldn’t. To make certain, we have to create neighborhoods,” he stated.
SIDEBAR: Rocky River Citizen Police Academy Class of 2013-01:
Bill Blough – president; honors
Jen Kappler – honors
Tim Raynewater – honors