Citizen police brings together mother-daughter pairs

Photo by Monica Maschak

Photo by Monica Maschak

Bethany English

The Kent City Police Department might seem like an unusual place for a mother and daughter to spend quality time together, but that is just what two mother-daughter duos are doing every Thursday evening for the next eight weeks.

Debbie Bartels, 42, signed up to participate in Kent’s first Citizen Police Academy to gain some insight into the work that police officers do. Her 19-year-old daughter, Dianne, hopped on board as well.

“I just thought it would be fun,” Dianne said.

It gives them something to talk about on the ride home and something to look forward to during the week, Debbie said.

But the program isn’t just a fun addition to the workweek. Lt. Paul Canfield, coordinator of the program, said the Citizen Police Academy is a way for officers to reveal what police work entails.

“People’s perception of what police do is actually significantly different than the reality of what we do,” Canfield said.

The three- to four-hour classes, which are free for participants, actually cost about $14,000 to run for the 12-week period. This money, used to pay officers’ wages for class instruction, comes from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which totaled $45,000. The remaining grant funds were used to purchase a K-9 unit, increase neighborhood patrols and make other improvements to the department.

Other similar programs to educate citizens about police work exist throughout the nation. After researching these kinds of programs, Canfield said he discovered that more than 50 of these courses exist on a statewide level. The first citizen’s police academy program, which Canfield said began in Orlando in 1985, is still operating.

The Bartels aren’t the only mother and daughter pair using this as an opportunity to bond. Linda and Thurayya UmBayemake are also spending Thursday evenings together.

An article about the program caught Thurayya’s attention and made her think of her mother, who used to work as a police officer for both Cuyahoga Community College and the city of Cleveland.

“That’s why when I saw this, I was like ‘Hey, Mom, would you be interested?’” Thurayya said.

And Linda was interested. She said she wanted to see how things have changed since she worked as a police officer. She also gets to spend time with her daughter, something Thurayya said they don’t often do.

Linda said she was more “tomboyish” than most mothers, and the program could be a great way to shed some light on her own personality for her daughter.

“Maybe (the Citizen Police Academy) will give her a chance to understand me more,” Linda said.

While no Kent State students are currently enrolled in the Citizen Police Academy, Canfield said they are welcome to participate in the program.

Jon Evans, a lab manager at AMETEK and Rootstown resident, said this could help younger people, especially students, understand the role of police in the City of Kent.

“Being young, you have an immediate dislike for police because you have this ‘it’s-us-against-them mentality,’” Evans said.

Canfield said the Citizen Police Academy will be offered again next spring, and the current plan is to make it a biannual program at the Kent Police Department. Students in the class are touting the merits of the idea.

“I hope that they continue with this,” Evans said. “It’s a great way to see exactly what a police officer does.”

Contact Bethany English at [email protected].