Officers and other members of the San Marino Police Department joined up with 17 San Marino residents on Tuesday, Nov. 27 in the Crowell Public Library’s Barth Community Room for the fourth of six weekly classes in the first-ever Community Police Academy held by the department. The academy is similar to what other local departments offer their community members, according to Support Services Commander Aaron Blonde’.
“The goal of the academy is simple: to provide our community members with some first-hand knowledge of not only our police department operations, but also a better understanding of law enforcement’s continuously changing role in the community,” according to Blonde’.
The series is presented in a friendly and casual environment. The application requirements for participation in the academy includes being over 18 years old, a resident, worker, or property owner in San Marino and having no felony convictions and no misdemeanor convictions within one year of application. The academy, which is limited to 20 residents, includes information about criminal law and procedures, tactics, use of force and community policing programs. Past classes have included participating in a use of force scenario simulator at the Pasadena Police Department and learning how the Department of Public Works impacts public safety. The course will conclude in December with a graduation dinner, where students will receive a certificate of completion.
“You never know who you’re going to have and what your audience really wants, so we try to kind of keep it middle of the road,” said Blonde’.
This past week’s meeting provided insight from Records Manager Angie Gonzalez into how records are taken and organized within the department as well as a presentation by Dispatcher Christina Curtis on how dispatchers are trained and handle calls the department receives within San Marino. Residents learned how the department prioritizes calls and what hurdles that dispatchers face. In 2017 alone, 45,194 calls were answered by the SMPD and 25,455 calls were dispatched. The numbers caught many of the residents by surprise during the class.
Doug Wilson, a resident of San Marino for 17 years, took detailed notes as he listened to the presentation. He said he applied to participate in the academy because he was curious on how police operated in the city and appreciated the way they engaged in community outreach. Through the academy, he valued having a better understanding of traffic engineering and everything involved in policing, as well as stronger knowledge in being safely proactive.
“I thought this would be useful in determining what I can do better to protect my family, my neighbors and also what I’m able to do to help the police as well,” said Wilson.
The class also touched on the importance of community organization and involvement. Officers encouraged residents to set up a Neighborhood Watch program in their area or participate if there’s an existing one. During the presentation, they displayed a map that showed only a few areas of San Marino have Neighborhood Watch programs, leaving many neighborhoods at a disadvantage when crimes or natural disasters hit due to weaker lines of communication with neighbors and police.
Corporal Kenric Wu focused on the effect that natural disasters such as wildfires, windstorms and earthquakes have on agencies, often stretching them thin and limiting their ability to respond quickly to calls. Wu further stressed the importance of setting up Neighborhood Watch programs so that residents can unite to sustain themselves until emergency services can arrive.
“Neighborhood Watch now is just kind of migrating towards encompassing that as part of our mission to assist the city,” said Wu. “Law enforcement is not be able to go to every single call. We have to triage the city. The most important things are houses on fire, is there a tree in there, something exploded, we’re going to go to those first.”
San Marino resident Karen Habib applied to the academy as a Neighborhood Watch block captain in her area for the past three years. She has helped organize block parties and said it has been a positive experience as it has helped her forged connections with her neighbors, who she didn’t know previously due to many living behind gates.
“I’ve lived here 40 years and I now in the last three years know my neighbors,” said Habib.
An enthusiastically vocal member of the academy, Habib engaged with fellow residents at the class and asked many questions of the officers and department members, which created further dynamic discussion throughout the evening.
“I thought it would be good information for me to give to my neighbors of what the police do,” Habib shared with The Tribune. “And if they have a second academy, maybe some of you would like to join the academy.”
For more information and to apply for an upcoming Community Police Academy class, contact Commander Aaron Blonde’ at 626-300-0720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Neighborhood Watch or to become a block captain in your area, email email@example.com.