Sign up now: Bismarck Police Department’s “Citizens’ Police Academy”


A few years ago my friend Lee and I were accepted into the Bismarck Police Department’s “Citizens’ Police Academy” for several weeks of education into what the Bismarck PD is all about. A couple dozen of us spent each Tuesday night from September through December learning about the various aspects of police work, the structure of the department, the special duties of various officers, and the standards of accountability and professionalism to which they hold themselves. It was a real eye-opener.

Some of the people in the class were interested in pursuing careers in the criminal justice field. Others, like me, are simply average citizens who support our local law enforcement personnel and jumped at the opportunity to learn more. I’d spent plenty of time in the Mandan Police Department growing up through the Explorers program, working in the control room and doing traffic control, color guard, etc. but I didn’t know much about things here on the Bismarck side.

While most of the Academy consists of classroom time, it’s not boring. It’s an informal environment, the chief and/or deputy chief are usually on hand to help answer questions, and there are always some interesting tales to tell. While the class went until 9pm each night, it was not uncommon for that night’s officer to stay until 10pm chatting about what we discussed in class.

Of course, there was a mandatory ride-along in a police car on a Friday or Saturday night. I think everybody had an eventful time, especially myself. I go on ride-alongs from time to time other than in Bismarck, and my rule is “what happens in the car stays in the car.” I respect people’s privacy as much as a value my own, and that sort of confidentiality is very important when dealing with people in the sort of situations that require a visit from a police officer. That wasn’t the only thrilling part of the Academy, however:


I think everybody was looking forward to the shooting portion of the class. One night a week we went through an evening discussing firearms and then going to the indoor range to fire some Simunition. We each were given the opportunity to fire eleven rounds from the same firearm carried by Bismarck police officers. It was performed under very close supervision after great attention to safety details.


I had to chuckle at my target, which I got to keep: six shots to the heart, five to the chin. I didn’t want to look like an idiot, so I intentionally aimed low for the head shots to avoid hitting the clamp holding my target. I think the groups would have been tighter if I’d had my own Glock, but Lee and I had the tightest performance out of the group. Something about videographers having a steady hand, I suppose. I got to keep my shell casings as a souvenir of the evening as well.


It was bittersweet to reach the completion night for a “graduation” celebration. We had pizza and got our pictures taken with the chief & deputy chief and were presented with some additional memoirs. As you can see we each received a framed certificate, Bismarck PD patch, and Citizens Police Academy mug. My little boy PJ had come with to see Daddy’s graduation and insisted that he be in the photo with us. Later he talked ’em out of a CPA mug of his own, and he’s still very proud of it.

It’s a great opportunity and speaks volumes that our police department wants to reach out to the public like this. It’s amazing how much misinformation is floating around out there about how police officers operate, and those of us who have received a little bit of education to dispel the rumors can act as ambassadors for the department. I gladly embrace such an opportunity, because I’m proud of our local law enforcement in Bismarck-Mandan. I’m fortunate to call several officers and deputies my friends and am grateful for their service to our community.

According to the City of Bismarck’s website, they’re still taking applications for the Citizens’ Police Academy. You can download the application PDF here and get it in immediately if you’d like to try for a slot…I don’t know how many they have filled.

There are some requirements for application, including a clear criminal record and passing a background check. If you are an adult resident of Bismarck and can meet these criteria, you’re able to apply. I highly recommend availing yourself of the opportunity to do so!

Fun in a bottle

I’ve been on a novelty soda kick lately, as the above photo illustrates. The types I’ve spotted around town range from Christmas-themed to absolutely bizarre, such as the Qadaffi and Leninade sodas, and fun like Avery’s disgusting soda line. Of course we can’t forget good old Jolt Cola – sugar and caffeine, baby! By the way, many of these sodas actually use pure cane sugar instead of the high-fructose corn syrup used by the big soda companies these days.

My favorite so far is Leninade (here’s their website) – it’s the best tasting, and as a bit of a cold war buff I get a kick out of it. I bet Reagan would sip this stuff cold if he was still with us today! There are plenty of humorous bits in the label and the inside of the bottle cap as well.

These sodas are awesome – some for their novelty, some for their taste, and some for both. The best collection I’ve seen to date is at Runnings, although there are a bunch at Mac’s Hardware as well. Mac’s used to have an enormous display of these, but now they’re down to just a single refrigerated case.

If you spot these sorts of sodas around town, please let me know!

Duluth falls far short of North Dakota snow angel world record

This is STILL the world record for single-site snow angels.


I found out today that Duluth tried, quite unsuccessfully, to top our record for the most snow angels made in a single location at a single event. Nice try, but North Dakota tops Minnesota in all the good ways. 🙂

You may remember a while back when I posted that Canadians had made over 15,000 snow angels for a new record – but they were at multiple sites across a wide area, so it is NOT the same record as ours.

Fear not, NoDaks…we’re still undefeated.

Hay! (Oh, like you’ve never done that)

One of my favorite not-quite-funny road trip gags is to exclaim, “Hey!” when passing a field of hay bales. Of course someone in the car will rubberneck to see what I’m talking about, and hilarity ensues. At least for the first couple of times…after that it’s likely to resemble an old fashioned game of Slug Bug more than anything else…but without the bug!

Fort Lincoln frisbee frolicking

My little guys have really been looking forward to a trip to the blockhouses at Fort Lincoln lately, so last night I made that happen. One boy had his bike, one boy had his frisbees, and Daddy had his camera. The winds aloft were pushing all the nice clouds away to the southeast, but I was able to catch a few before they moved off. Then it was on to the fun.

I fancy myself quite the proficient frisbee thrower and catcher. I don’t do the frolf thing very often; my favorite frisbee pastime is to do lots of running, jumping, throwing, and catching on the capitol lawn. My latest favorite is throwing multiple frisbees simultaneously and seeing how many little guys can catch ’em! We took that show on the road last night as I threw frisbees up to the roof of the blockhouse and darted around as my fellas threw them back down. All the while trying not to spill camera gear.

The evening came and went quickly, as the fleeting sun darted over the horizon with September velocity. At that point it was time to grab a couple shots of clouds reflecting a pinkish hue and bolt back to the truck for the long ride home. Not a bad little adventure for a weeknight, and since that pesky sun sets so early this time of year I think we all made it to bed on schedule!

Photoshop play gone viral

So I was practicing some work avoidance here at home the other night and fired up Photoshop as I’m prone to do… a few minutes later I’d made the above graphic. I posted a small version of it on my blog’s Facebook page and didn’t think much of it.

The next thing I know, my Facebook metrics are on the uptick: in almost no time at all I’d had thousands of people “talking about” the graphic – this means sharing, commenting, liking, whatever. At the moment it’s at 7,288 with 2,385 direct shares. I guess I struck a chord somewhere.

One other diversion I came up with was this one for Heidi Heitkamp, who is on record as cheering the Obamacare debacle that this state dislikes at around a 70% rate. Send this one to your Catholic friends, particularly the ones who didn’t know that they’re now paying for all kinds of things their church calls anathema.

There’s plenty of material out there…the next time I’m trying to avoid tidying up my home office I’ll probably brainstorm a couple more.

Hopping aboard another meme

I was a “gamer” in the sense of the Atari 2600, Apple // and Commodore computers, a beta tester for a few Mac game companies, and begrudgingly even X-Box. While I don’t own a modern game system or even have a clue about the major PC games out there these days, I do still have vintage game systems hooked up in the house and garage and a healthy collection of games on my iPod Touch. In that respect I guess I’m still a “gamer.”

It must be a deeply rooted trait, since I had one instinct as soon as I saw these road markings denoting new “bike lanes” in certain parts of Bismarck. Okay, one instinct besides the apparent waste of money. While there are two or three different sets of markings, concerning in that they lack consistency, this particular set looks like a set of “boost arrows”. These features, appearing in any number of driving games, cause wild acceleration once they’re driven upon. Sounds right up my alley. Sadly, they are of no effect outside the virtual world.

Interesting side note: although these things are only weeks old, many of them are badly faded. It took a while to find one worth photographing. Perhaps the City Commission could have reviewed the bids more closely or something, because the paint clearly is not holding up in areas of significant traffic.

In any case, I figured I’d hop on board a common internet meme, select “Impact” as my font, and bang out a quick little graphic. Note the historic Provident Life Weather Beacon in the background. My contribution to “teh Intarwebz” this week is complete. Have a great weekend!

Boys love flying machines

Boys love machines, period…it doesn’t matter how old. Airplanes and helicopters are particularly cool, which is why I’ve always taken the time to give my little fellas plenty of exposure to aircraft. In fact, we may be taking them to the skies for a joyride this week… and Daddy is planning a video gig with plenty of helicopter work! Doesn’t that all sound fun?

Play day

Gotta love these sunny Saturdays! Our camera club met at the coffee shop today, my wife insisted that I get out and take a motorcycle trip, and of course I decided to play with the camera. I set one camera up on a tripod with my intervalometer snapping away every ten seconds, then combined some shots for some fun. Now it’s time to go back outside and see what awaits in the backyard and Garage Majal!

Traumatic April Fool’s Day experience

I have the sweetest, most wonderful, beautiful wife…BUT yesterday she pranked me hard. I came home from lunch to find her sitting on the couch, crying. Confused, I attempted to figure out what was wrong so I could “fix” it. I am a guy, after all. She simply sobbed, “I left something on the kitchen table for you.”

Even more confused, I made my way to the kitchen to find the above: a CUTE little photography-related onesie with a little pink stick laying on it. Huh? I looked at it, saw two lines, read the writing on it, and internally FREAKED. Putting on my best calm, reassuring husband facade, I came back to the living room to assure her that everything will be okay. We’re all going through a lot of lifestyle changes right now, including her becoming a stay-at-home mom, so really this isn’t as scary as it could be. Of course, inside my head are all the flashes of guy-type panic, but I’m not going to let her know that.

That’s when, through her genuine tears, she sobbed, “April Fool’s, honey!” And started laughing. I was so shocked, I didn’t know how to react! Internally, of course, I felt enormous relief…but I was still off-balance emotionally from trying to process the idea of a Baby Number Three.

Of course, I can appreciate a good prank as much as the next guy. I wasn’t angry (again, probably due to relief) and simply gave her a hug and assured her that even if it HAD been true, I’d still have been okay and that I love her very much.

I later found that she borrowed the stick from a friend who’s expecting. You’ve got to love a girl who will go the extra mile for a little fun. Thank God that this day only comes once a year!