By Anne Eickstadt

ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Daily Republican
The graduates of the Belvidere Citizens’ Police Academy spring session are joined by Mayor Mike Chamberlain, City Attorney Drella, Police Chief Woody, Deputy Chief Wallace, Officer Blankenship and a few of the course’s instructors.


The final night of the ten-week Citizens’ Police Academy is a bittersweet celebration. The class has spent every Wednesday night for the last two and a half months meeting together; learning about the different units of the Police Dept. and what they do; and getting to know the officers and detectives who spent their time informing and educating us. We get to spend time with our respective families next Wednesday, but I, for one, will miss hanging out with the class and the cops each week.

Deputy Chief Wallace and Officer Blankenship suggested we might be interested in becoming Volunteers in Police Service [VIPS] to augment the police force during special events, helping with crowd control, parking, and directions at parades, Heritage Days, the Boone County Fair, and all the myriad other activities that do not require a badge to perform.

“Is there a class for that?” one student asked.

“This is it,” he was told.

Most of the night shift officers came to celebrate with us and special guests joined us for our final evening. Mayor Mike Chamberlain, who has already been through the BCPA course, came to say a few words. “The Belvidere Police are exceptional,” he said. “It takes a special individual to make a commitment to the community the way they do. We can sleep well at night knowing we are safe. The VIPS who help them are also special. You have made it all the way through the course. Congratulations. I am proud of all of you.”

Police Chief Woody also came to graduation night. “Without community support and involvement, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are. Our patrol officers do an outstanding job but there are a limited number of us. We depend on each and every one of you to report questionable and suspicious sounds and activities.

“The academy starts with learning what the police department does. What is next, if you choose, is to become a part of the VIPS program. You can help with city events. They won’t go off smoothly without volunteer help.”

Chief Woody then asked Officer Blankenship to explain further.

VIPS assist with the Memorial Day Parade, Medication Disposal – which is being held twice this year due to its huge success last year, Shred Day – which is completely run by the VIPS, Heritage Days, Parade, Build a Bike event, Veterans Roll, National Night Out, the Boone County Fair, two Homecoming parades, Veteran’s Day, Halloween Parade, Hometown Christmas, and the Feed the Need collection and distribution.

“We also have community outreach programs in the summer to interact with youth and a summer lunch program. The Citizen’s Police Academy is held twice a year, and some VIPS also help with squad car maintenance.

“VIPS meet once a month and learn things like traffic control for times of heavy weather and emergencies such as downed power lines and crash scenes. They do not do traffic stops or come out to domestic situations.

“VIPS help with the emergency siren check each month. We still have one siren location I have to cover because we don’t have someone who can go and make sure it works properly”

“We want to give you every tool possible so you don’t get into situations you can’t handle,” said Deputy Chief Wallace.

“There is a good camaraderie between the VIPS and the Belvidere Police,” volunteer Jan said.

City Attorney Michael Drella addressed issues the volunteers might have. “There is no way the city can do what it does without citizen involvement,” he said. “The police can’t…

For complete article, pick up the April 18 Belvidere Daily Republican.

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