anne eickstadt photo Belvidere Republican
Deputy Chief Matt Wallace tests the class’s knowledge of Belvidere and the Belvidere Police Department with a trivia game while explaining the structure of the BPD.

By Anne Eickstadt


The Belvidere Police Department hosts 10 sessions of the Citizens Police Academy twice a year to increase the community’s understanding of what the BPD does, why they do what they do, and how they do it.

Fifteen people showed up for this session of the CPA. On Wednesday, March 3, they were greeted by Deputy Chief Matt Wallace and Officer Tim Blankenship. Wallace kicked the meeting off with a welcome before introducing Mayor Mike Chamberlain.

“I’m a graduate of the class,” Mayor Mike said. “I learned a lot about police procedure and when someone asks me, ‘Why do the police – – -?’ I can answer. You will get a very close look at what happens in the police department. Thank you for taking the time to find out how the police department works.”

The BPD has a typical business/organizational pyramid structure with several different departments and everyone having specific duties. Woody is at the top of the structure, with oversight into every aspect of the department. D.C. Gardner is in charge of the patrol officers. Wallace is in charge of the investigative side of the BPD and community policing. He started with a trivia quiz about Belvidere and the police department. The person with the closest answer won prizes handed out by Blankenship.

Blankenship is the Community Policing coordinator and, as such, attends numerous events within the community in which the BPD is involved. He visits schools, the Keen Age Center, the YMCA, and other businesses and organizations to educate kids and adults about law enforcement within Belvidere and Boone County. He organizes the Volunteers in Police Service [VIPS], who assist with non-dangerous duties that will free up BPD officers to keep the community safe, and other duties.

Woody arrived as soon as his duties allowed. “It’s truly wonderful to see so many new faces,” he said. Thank you for coming out to find out what we do and why we do it. People don’t necessarily understand what really happened when they see or read about bits and pieces of an event. Without each and every one of you, we would not be as successful as we are. We are a relatively small department for the size of our community but with the residents’ help we are able to keep the community relatively crime free. We are really blessed in this community. Many departments do not have the support from the community that we get.”

Wallace explained the rank structure, flow chart, and jurisdiction of the BPD. He explained how police officers are hired – the testing they need to pass; background checks, personality tests; psychological testing, and a polygraph test. If the candidate passes all that, and is not already a police officer and has been trained, he/she will need to attend a police academy (at police department expense) and then undergo months of field training.

“Our best and brightest will train the rookie. It’s like driver’s training,” Wallace said. “You learn the book stuff, but you still need to learn to drive and apply that learning to reality. The rookie will need to learn to write a report the BPD way and drive a squad car. We teach them how to be safe and keep the community safe. They earn scores every day as their trainers evaluate their performance. At the end of their probationary year a final decision is made.

“We want the best candidates wherever they come from. A lot of candidates in this area come from the suburbs looking for a safer place to raise their families. They get hired, and then return to the suburbs where they will be paid more. Our department does not have that problem. Our guys recommend friends who are similar to them in personality, integrity, and values.

“We have a family type setting. We care about our people and they don’t want to go. The BPD is a great place to work. We want you to stay because you want to. We want you to be the best police officer you can be.”

Out of all the candidates applying each year to become a police officer in Belvidere, only one or two will actually get hired. Members of the BPD continue to train every month to keep up on new techniques, laws, procedures, and everything else a good police officer needs to know to do the job well. They depend on the community and volunteers to help them.

“We can’t do our jobs without you guys,” Wallace said.

Session 2 was held Wednesday, March 10; Blankenship discussed “A Day in the Life of a Police Officer,” including equipment, duties, assignments and typical calls.

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