ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Deputy Chief Matt Wallace discusses the structure of the Belvidere Police Dept. during Day 1 of the Citizens Police Academy.

By Anne Eickstadt


The Belvidere Police Department hosts ten sessions of the Citizens Police Academy twice a year to increase the communities’ understanding of what the BPD does, why they do what they do, and how they do it. This term, the CPA is being held in the Public Safety Building, 615 N. Main St. Belvidere

On Wednesday, Feb. 12, a dozen students at the Citizens Police Academy were greeted by Police Chief Shane Woody. He thanked the students for coming to learn more about the Belvidere Police Dept., considering bing a Volunteer in Police Service, and perhaps taking the time to be ambassadors for the police and correcting any misinformation and fake news once they had completed the course.

Deputy Chief Matt Wallace then began a discussion about how the BPD works. The BPD has a typical business/organizational pyramid structure with several different departments and everyone having specific duties. Chief 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. D.C. Wallace is in charge of the investigative side of the BPD. Officer Blankenship is the Community Policing Coordinator and, as such, attends numerous events within the community in which the BPD is involved, has oversight of the repairs of patrol vehicles, and lends a hand whenever he can.

Each of these men has been a police officer for over 20 years, has worked in numerous departments within law enforcement, and has a thorough knowledge of what they need to do to keep the community safe and have the skills to match.

Belvidere has a population of about 26,000. The BPD is comprised of 43 police officers, including detectives, detention, school resource officers, etc. Six officers in the BPD are women. The BPD jurisdiction of authority is throughout the city limits and, when requested, in other jurisdictions, and anywhere in Illinois if they witness a crime.

D.C. Wallace 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,” D.C. 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 with all its additional devices. 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 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 the 50, 100, or more 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,” D.C. Wallace said.

Session 2: Officer Blankenship discusses “A Day in the Life of a Police Officer” including equipment, duties, assignments, and typical calls.


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