When Garden Grove resident Asunta Bamani wanted to get a feel for what takes place in City Hall, she became a commissioner on Garden Grove’s Parks, Recreation, and Arts Commission.
And when public safety issues came up in her neighborhood, Bamani wanted to form a closer bond with the police department.
“I had built a partnership with City Hall by being a commissioner, and now I need to take the next step,” Bamani said.
So, she enrolled in the Garden Grove Police Department’s Citizen Academy.
Over 13 weeks (a graduation dinner takes place on the 14th week) the academy provides participating Garden Grove residents with comprehensive and unprecedented access to every facet of the department.
“One thing you’ll learn about GGPD, we are well trained, and we pull out all the stops,” Lt. Bob Bogue, an investigator and 35-year member of the department, told the academy class. “We are a very professional organization and we do whatever we can to fix the problem.”
The GGPD conducted its first Citizen Academy in 2006 and hosts the academy annually from mid-September to mid-December.
The 16 participants in the current academy started by learning about the Garden Grove Police Department’s community policing philosophy and taking a tour of the department.
Academy students are taught by the people who perform each function: Personnel and Recruitment, Patrol Procedures, Vehicle Stops and Pursuit Policy, Laws of Arrest, Use of Force, Officer Involved Shooting, Crime Analysis, Property Crimes, Beat Investigations, Identity Theft/Fraud, Forensic Services, Crimes Against Persons, Cold Case Homicide, Traffic, Gangs, K9 Team, Special Resources Team.
Bamani takes copious notes during every session.
She went on a ride-along with an officer, not for three or four hours, but for an entire 12-hour shift.
Now she is even considering a career in law enforcement.
“It never was on my radar, but then I had an officer tell me that I had a personality to fit in this field,” Bamani said.
The academy also enables the Garden Grove Police Department to become more aware of the feelings and concerns of residents and build healthy relationships between citizens and the police.
Some academy participants said they’ve developed a better understanding of the challenges faced by the police in the wake of new laws that lead to the early release of inmates from jails and prisons. As a result, crime is on the upswing.
“It’s made our job extremely difficult,” said Capt. Tom DaRé, who is in charge of the Operations Unit. “It’s not uncommon for us to arrest the same guy three times a day.”
Audria Chavira, who enrolled in the Citizen Academy with her husband, was dismayed upon discovering that current laws often protect suspects.
“We can understand (the police) point of view,” Chavira said. “I can actually understand.”
Academy participants also learn about the human side of law enforcement.
Bogue shared his experience dealing with intense feelings when responding to a gruesome triple murder that occurred about 10 years ago, in which one of the victims was a 6-year-old boy who was wearing his Spiderman pajamas.
“Imagine getting dealt that case,” said Bogue, who oversees four detective units. “The weight is on your shoulders.”
Bogue and now-retired Det. Sgt. Ron Echavarria solved the case.
Bogue thanked the academy class members for taking time to connect with their police department, the place he has called home for 35 years.
“We really do care about what happens in our city,” Bogue said. “We are a family. You guys are part of our family now.”