Last fall 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 I still think Lee and I had the tightest performance out of the group. 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' 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.
I know this is short notice, but according to the City of Bismarck's website, they're still taking applications for this fall's Citizens' Police Academy for two more days. 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!
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My boys love chasing sunsets with Daddy and their little cameras, so last night we did both. Unfortunately for the sunset goal, clouds rolled in and prevented much from happening in the sky. It didn't seem to matter too much, however, since we got to ascend to the top of some blockhouses anyway. Note the boys' stuffed puppies seated patiently on the sidewalk...it was their first trip to the blockhouses, I'm told.
PJ took this shot with his V-tech camera as the clouds filled the sky...
and Jonathan grabbed this one at the same time.
Then it was off to the next big fort to look at the receding Missouri River flood, marvel at the hazy skies due to overwhelming humidity, and back to the truck to dodge the mosquitoes and gnats who had discovered our presence.
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North 26th Street is a gateway to photographic fun, and one landmark along the way is this barn with the droopy weather vane. While I can't vouch for its accuracy as an apparent wind indicator, I can say that it's got a sterling track record as a barn indicator.
This device first caught my eye a long time ago when it seemed to perfectly align itself with the brilliant red structure below. As you can see, this is a totally different angle, yet it seems to be pointing the way home quite clearly.
What I could use right now is a taco indicator!
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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!
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Our family plays Slugbug wherever we drive. We have as long as my little boys can remember, as we started 'em young. They're getting pretty sharp at it, too, which is why this was one of the highlights at Buggies & Blues for them this year.
We made it to B&B but were unable to continue because of the heat and humidity. There are limits to how far you can take two little boys in the sun and heat, especially walking up and down a hot slab of concrete like Main Street. The humidity was oppressive, and actually fogged up my camera when I pulled it out of its bag. As a result, we headed back to the air conditioned truck...but not without someone enthusiastically calling, "Slugbug!"
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