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!

July Flame


July Flame
I’m seeing fireworks
They’re so beautiful
Tell me why it hurts

July Flame
Ashes of a secret heart
Falling in my lemonade
Unslakeable thirsting in the back yard

The red sunsets we’ve been enjoying are because other areas really are aflame. Today was a scorcher as well, so that made the song seem oddly appropriate. It is still July, although it’s scary how little of the month we have left. The lyrics are from my favorite July song EVER, “July Flame” by Laura Veirs. You can check it out on iTunes by clicking here.

Oh, by the way…here’s the video in case you want to peruse the song:

July marks my return to action with my cameras, on a limited basis and for the time being. This sunset, for example, actually came from my deck instead of from a photo trip. Hopefully my family will put all our various health issues behind us and will be back on our feet, better than ever by the time next July rolls around!

Heidi Heitkamp for Abortion…so much for the Independent Voice for North Dakota™

heidi4abortionQuick rundown: Democrats want to force Christian employers to pay for abortion and “birth control” drugs that abort a pregnancy.  Many resisted.  The Supreme Court sided with the employers in the “Hobby Lobby” case.  Vowing to proceed with infanticide, Heidi Heitkamp’s party decided to push through a new law to specifically counter that decision.

Guess who voted “Yea” for cloture on this bill?

heidi_adBut wait a minute!  Didn’t the self-proclaimed “Independent Voice™ for North Dakotans” say in her campaign ads, “I’ll only answer to you.”?  Yes, that’s exactly how she ended the ad portrayed above.  That’s how she portrayed herself throughout her campaign: go check out her TV ads for yourself…they’re all online.

North Dakotans oppose abortion.  That’s never been arguable.  We send people to our state legislature who oppose it as well (aside from pockets of Democrat party dominance).  On our behalf they have passed multiple laws and resolutions defending life in the womb, and we continue to re-elect them.  I think it’s pretty clear what the citizens of North Dakota, whom Heidi Heitkamp claims to represent regardless of “partisan politics”, believe on this issue.  Yet she sides with her Democrat cronies consistently.  In fact, she sticks with President Obama 97% of the time, and it’s been documented.

Heidi Heitkamp is a liar.  This prompted me to make  the following graphic a while ago:

heidi-howClick on the image for a full size version.  Download and share!

Back when the “What I really do” meme was big in the net, I was able to come up with this in a matter of minutes; Heidi makes it easy.  It illustrates perfectly how the Independent Voice™ really pulls a fast one on North Dakota.

Fortunately, the Republicans were able to stop the Democrats this time; the pro-abort Dems were unable to get enough votes for cloture on S2578..  They won’t give up, though, and how they’ll be shrieking about “partisan politics” and how they tried in their valiant effort for “reproductive rights™” to raise more liberal campaign donations.  Business as usual.

There are a lot of things Senator Hoeven does that I don’t like, but in this case I think it’s worth a trip to his Facebook page or email inbox to let him know that this was the right stand for North Dakota.

Unfortunately, having a Heitkamp in the Senate means that the Democrats can effectively cancel out Senator Hoeven’s vote any time they want to.  By splitting our vote, they take North Dakota out of play on any given issue.  Think about that if you ever consider casting a vote for a Democrat Senator in a future election, no matter how many starry-eyed promises of independence they make.

A Googled gaggle, a fox that baled, and a pause for reflection

I bolted to Sweet Briar with my best friend tonight to see if I could catch a red sunset.  There’s a lot of particulate matter in the sky right now, making for some very red suns, and I wanted to get in on the action.  There were a few things in the way of that plan, however:

road_geese_30196First is this gaggle of geese. I had to double-check my terminology to make sure that I was right, and apparently a “gaggle” is at least five geese.  This bunch easily meets the requirements and, although they were plopped down as if they owned the road, I was able to convince them quite quickly that it was time to move.


fox_bale_30194Just prior to that, I’d spotted an unusual sight: a fox laying on top of a hay bale.  He had his front paws out in front of him and was just lounging around as we passed.  I grabbed a telephoto lens and a camera and circled back, but this time he must have seen the lens or something…and scampered away.  Shot missed.


sweet_briar_30213The sky played a cruel one on me today: the clouds moved in, obscuring the sun and the horizon.  That’s okay, I had a Plan B: catch some nice reflections in the calm water of the lake.  That worked.

Because of the advancing clouds and haze of the sky, it got dark quickly and it was time to head for home.  It wasn’t the result I was looking for, but it was a good night nonetheless.

Hot rods and memories at the BK

hotrod_iphone_2996I drove past the Burger King in Mandan with my family tonight, and my youngest little guy (a big car fan, even at his age) spotted the classic cars and wanted to take a look.

Since my surgeries and my wife’s surgery, along with all the other stuff we’ve gone through, the little boys have been great.  They’ve been cooped up a lot when Mommy and Daddy can’t take ‘em places, although we have friends that have stepped in.  But to have actual family time on a summer night like tonight…well, that’s long overdue.  It’s also taught me a sense of perspective.  We were on our way to a specific destination, but I’ve learned to make time for whatever little thing is important to my children.  So we stopped.

The best part about my evening was one of the first: my little guy grabbed my hand, led me around the parking lot, and talked up a storm about all the shiny hot rods on display.  He had a blast, I was on cloud nine, and before long we were all back in the truck and continuing on with our evening.

I often quote one of my favorite songs by Grasshopper Takeover: You can never get it back; you can only let it go.  Well, tonight I didn’t have to let anything go.

Obama’s North Dakota visit…where did he go?

obama_standingrockIt’s interesting.  A few Fridays ago, “the Preezy” came to North Dakota.  In case you missed it, North Dakota at that time had had the lowest unemployment rate in the nation for 65 consecutive months at 2.6%.  We have prospering energy, agriculture, manufacturing, and even tourism sectors…examples of things going right.  The President didn’t visit the Energy Corridor, any of our so-called Centers of Excellence, or an agricultural landmark such as a farm or co-op.  So where did he go?

The Community Organizer in Chief instead did what community organizers do best: he went to a part of the state that admits 60 percent unemployment and 40 percent poverty, speaking in broad platitudes and offering no solutions, then hopping back on his jet to head for a $32,000 per plate fundraiser in another state.

By the way, life on “the rez” is a perfect example of what happens if you let the federal government intrude upon all aspectsof your life.  This is the liberal Democrat utopia in full effect.  Think I’m wrong?  Look at other bastions of Democrat Party liberalism such as Detroit, which has deteriorated from a bustling metropolis and center of ingenuity & industry into a scene from Sarajevo or Tikrit.

The example doesn’t end there.  In fact, the native peoples have had “single payer health care” provided by the federal government for a long, long time.  You know what the credo is for people in the Indian Health Service system?  “Don’t get sick after June.”  The money simply runs out, and treatment is unable to continue.  Welcome to another Democrat utopia.  Never has there been a more perfect microcosm to demonstrate where the United States will be if Hope™ and Change™ are allowed to reach fruition.  Native people deserve more, the way they’ve been treated over the years is an embarrassment to our nation, and it’s sickening to use them as props.  The scary thing is, instead of helping them, this president and his party want to expand their plight to the rest of the nation…”equally”.


bistrib_obama_standingrockBy the way, Chase Iron Eyes dared to make a comment about he would have actually liked to have seen some “concrete plan” from the president…but he got nothing but platitudes and other community organizer rhetoric. You won’t see that comment on the Bismarck Tribune website anymore, because the article has been scrubbed from the Tribune website.  Here’s a PDF of the article before it disappeared.

So, instead of visiting North Dakota’s “energy corridor” to see how land is mined then reclaimed, or how oil is recovered while flaring is reduced, or how North Dakota farmers are feeding the world, he instead went to a place where poverty and misery run rampant because of government policies and dependency upon myriad social programs…and did the one thing he does best: sowing discord while offering no solution.  That is not leadership.

No wonder more people were excited about seeing the plane than the president occupying it.  Can you blame them?

Two in a row? You betcha

wilton_barn_30182I made it to Minot for a day trip (I thought about making a Day Tripper reference, with Sir Paul playing in Fargo, but decided against it) and found myself nearing Wilton as the sunset approached.  That’s a good thing, because I wanted an excuse to stop and take a photo of this old barn before it’s torn down…and this time of year puts it right in line with the setting sun.


wilton_barn_4085I’ve been sentimental about this particular barn because it was one of my first photographic subjects when I decided to get a Canon 7D.  I took a friend up to this barn and he let me use his new 7D for a test drive, and before long I revisited it with one of my own.  As you can see, the barn was in far better shape back then, with a stone addition off to one side.  Even in this photo you can see age beginning to take its toll.


sunset_30186There’s a lot of this sunset that I missed, but I wanted to get my two little towheads back to town and tucked into bed so they will wake up in time for church tomorrow.  I was groaning as I looked over at that blazing red sun and all the colors it was splashing across the sky, but I pressed on – knowing that I already had a variety of killer sunset photos in the bag.

Boy, it sure feels great to get out again.


Getting reacquainted

sweet_briar_29765It’s been a long time coming, but I was actually able to throw my cameras on my back, point the truck west, and venture out for a sunset photo!  It felt great to finally hit the road and take a few shots.  Okay, I took more than a few, but I still fell just short of achieving my 30,000th photo through my newest camera.  The other one stayed in the truck this time.



At first it looked like there wasn’t going to be much of a sunset, as clouds began to obscure the horizon and the sun with its color-splashing rays.  If there’s anything I’ve learned from photographing North Dakota at sunset, however, it’s patience.  Things can change…and change they did, as the clouds began to move off and the color returned.



Okay, I got the color taken care of.  Now it was time for some unique clouds to roll through.  This batch of cotton balls came by while there was still some light left in the sky and the sun wasn’t yet obscured on the horizon.


sweet_briar_29939The purple colors provided this late in the game were a welcome surprise.  Shortly after I snapped this one, those fleeting colors were gone.  That’s okay…my rule for deeming a “successful photo trip” is to bring back one photo I’m really pleased with.  This time I brought at least these four.

It feels good to get back into the swing of things.  As for my Canon 7D sitting at 29,998 exposures, I have a great plan to blow past the 30k mark in style.  Stay tuned.

Ramblings from a relaxing Independence Day

capitol_iphone_2863For such a low-key Independence Day, I must say that I really enjoyed myself. Nothing really over-the-top exciting happened, but it was simply a good day.  Here are a few highlights:

  • Due to continued recovery from surgery, my wife was stuck in the house with no plans to attend the parade.  I’m still regaining my mobility, so the idea of taking my little ones to the Mandan Parade and lugging along supplies wasn’t really an attractive prospect.  Nevertheless, for the kids’ sake I loaded up the truck.  As we left for Mandan, the skies looked fishy to me.  A check of the radar led me to want to call it off.  Once we got to our secret spot, which provides a great view with very little pre-planning, the rain and wind stepped up and even the kiddos decided to do something else.  Then my wife called with news of the cancellation.  The nice thing is that my boys weren’t disappointed or let down.  Whew.
  • I looked up a few remote geocaches that were right beside the road, took my boys out to find a couple, and had a nice afternoon without pushing my body too far. Then we stopped at a friend’s fireworks stand and got ‘em some of those little snappers you throw on the ground.  They’ve wanted them for a while, so now we’ve got a bunch.
  • I got a NAP.  A serious one.  Oh, rest does the body good.  Apparently that and medications do as well, because my sweetie was able to come with us to view the capitol fireworks! Thankfully our usual spot doesn’t involve much walking.
  • We went to the best place to watch the capitol fireworks, the lawn across from Job Service and the Gold Seal Building on the north side.  The fireworks look like they’re almost right overhead, and they’re very close.  The weird thing about last night was the wind from the south; we got a little bit of debris, to my kids’ enjoyment. How often do you get a strong southerly breeze on a July evening in North Dakota?
  • As we waited for the show to begin, there was a nice sunset (pictured above).  One big cloud looked like it was trying to achieve enough lift to storm, but it ran out of energy and the top sheared off.  Made for a nice photo.  I did not bring a camera with me, but thankfully phones do pretty well these days.  This is actually part of a panorama.
  • Just before the show began, a car drove by with the worst timing ever.  A passenger was holding a Roman Candle out the window, shooting multicolored balls into the air.  People were cheering, but the cheers turned to jeers at the end of the next block.  A Bismarck Police car was waiting to turn onto Divide, and the officer hit the lights and pulled over the offender.  Fireworks bring a Class C Misdemeanor in this town, which can be up to $500 and some jail time.  The funny thing was, as they pulled over, the colored balls were still shooting into the air.  It’s not like they could just switch it off!
  • The din of Mandan was breathtaking last night.  I don’t think I have ever heard such a ruckus, even on a nice Mandan night on July 4th.  It was non-stop, loud, steady, and big.  The sustained intensity of obviously large explosions was impressive.  A friend said it took him 25 minutes to traverse The Strip, and that visibility in places could be measured in mere feet.  Party on.
  • I didn’t miss my 20-pound camera bag…I’ve photographed the heck out of July 4th in Bismarck-Mandan, have been on a lifting restriction from my docs, and wanted to watch it with my family instead of through my viewfinder.  It was great.

As far as the cancellation of the parade goes, this wasn’t a couple of people in a booth making the call based on some pusillanimous fear of passing thunderstorms.  There were multiple people from various backgrounds making informed, professional decisions based on the information at hand.  As I’ve posted in a few Facebook comments: This storm, while short-lived, had a LOT of lightning.  ONE lightning strike in that crowd turns into a mass casualty situation immediately. And with the congestion and resulting chaos, responding to it would be nearly impossible. The various people and organizations that came together in agreement to cancel made the right call.  If they’d simply postponed it, people would have hunkered down in place…exactly what safety crews didn’t want them to do.

Our party happens tonight.  Some friends run a fireworks business, and they host an hour-long show at their home, far from Bismarck.  It should be a real treat.