Gurnee Citizen Police Academy

The Gurnee Citizen Police Academy is a 36-hour block of instruction designed to give the public a working knowledge of the practices, policies, and procedures governing the police department. The instruction consists of twelve 3-hour blocks conducted on a weekly basis. Participants must be at least 18 years of age and of good moral character with no felony convictions.

When in session, classes run on Thursdays from 7pm - 10pm. Anyone interested in attending the 12 week free course can obtain an application by contacting Deputy Chief William Meyer at (847) 599-7052 (

Class #27 started on March 3rd, 2016. For the next 11 weeks we'll be featuring an article written by either a current or former CPA student. Check back each week for an in-depth look at each CPA class.

Week #1:

Gurnee Citizen Police Academy Class #27

On Thursday March 3rd, 2016 I attended the first class for a new group of CPA students. I did so as a "reporter" of sorts. Each week a member of the Gurnee Police CPA Alumni Association will attend classes then write a short review of each. Our intention is to share class details with the public to help shed light on this very vital and popular program.

The class opened with Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik, Chief Kevin Woodside, and Deputy Chief Willie Meyer welcoming the group.

I had anticipated that students would be just as excited as my class was on their first night. I was not disappointed. Each attendee introduced themselves and said they wanted to learn as much as possible about what the police do. As a side-note, I notice two members had a striking resemblance to Gurnee Police Commander Brian Smith. As it turns out his parents are members of the class!

After the introductions Chief Woodside invited me to share some comments. I told the group that perhaps most important thing they will learn is who the police personnel are. I shared they will likely come to see each presenter as the open and warm people that they are, and the students will grow to care very much about each officer’s well-being.

Chief Woodside gave a presentation about officer recruitment, including their “lateral entry” program. It’s an arduous process, and it takes roughly 54 weeks to become a Gurnee police officer. Criterion is rigorous and includes physical fitness and personality testing.  Effective communication skills have become increasingly important. Communicating with the public is a skill each officer must do with excellence. Students were also given an in-depth tour of the police facility.

I'm confident that by graduation, this class will see how well the members of the Gurnee Police Department do every part of their job. 

Next week (03/10/16) students will discover the 911 center, emergency medical dispatching and receive a tour of the communications division.

Joe Vetrano, Current President, CPA Alumni Association

Week #2

Gurnee Citizen Police Academy Class #27

Week 2 of Gurnee CPA Class #27 was held on March 10th, 2016 and was all about the 911 communications center. The class was led by Wendy Mann, Joe Zak, and Jason Shirkey who all work as civilian communications operators in the Gurnee 911 center.

Wendy started out by explaining the hiring process and qualifications needed to apply for the position. There are fourteen 911 dispatchers each of which work 12 hour shifts. If anyone thinks this is some sort of secretarial position they’d better think again. The position requires the ability to multitask at an exceedingly high level; taking calls, monitoring numerous radios and computer screens as well as walk-in traffic by the public and officers. They’re expected to do it all in a calm, efficient, and professional manner.

Joe Zak was the next speaker. He showed photos of the previous police facility when it was flooded by the Des Plaines River. Joe took us visually through the current facility and explained all of the monitoring that they do. He explained all the different computer screens and how they assist the 911 dispatchers. An interesting fact is that the 911 center is designed to function for 2 full hours if the entire building was engulfed in flames. The 911 center also serves as the security hub for the entire police facility.

The last speaker for the evening was Jason Shirkey who taught about emergency medical dispatch. The 911 dispatchers can offer aid in almost 3 dozen medical emergency scenarios. From child birth to heart attacks, they’re all trained to provide guidance to callers until paramedics arrive at the scene. Whatever the emergency, by the time police or fire arrive on scene; the lifeline in the form of a skilled 911 operator has been your true first responder.

The evening concluded with a tour of the 911 center.

Next week (03/17/16) students will explore patrol functions as they relate to Gurnee Mills and Six Flags, DUI sobriety testing, felony stops, etc.

Gordon Hannan, current Vice President, CPA Alumni Association

Week #3

Gurnee Citizen Police Academy Class #27

Week 3 of the academy, held on 03/17/16, was divided into four topics; patrol division, visitor oriented policing, DUI/drugged driver enforcement, and “felony stops.”

Officers Ben Bozer, Jeff Hauptman and Kirk Helgesen began with an overview of the duties and responsibilities of Gurnee patrol officers. The patrol function is considered the “epicenter” of our agency. All other divisions; administration, communications, investigations, records; exist to support the patrol officer and his or her mission.

Each officer works a 12 hour shift.  The shift begins with a 15 minute briefing recapping the activities of the past day as well as any items affecting the current shift.  The officers stressed that no day is ever “routine” while conducting patrol.

There are two forms of calls officers respond to; service calls from the public and those that are “officer initiated.”  Calls from the public include everything imaginable that people call the police about.  Officer initiated calls include traffic enforcement, extra patrols, investigating things they observe that may be out of place, court appearances, training, follow-up investigations, etc.

During the second hour Officer Brian Carey presented information on the visitor oriented policing (VOP) concept. Department command applies the VOP concept to geographic areas within our community that attract and cater to a visitor population. There are officers whose regular “beat” assignment is Gurnee Mills (which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) and Great America, allowing the officers to become intimately familiar with each venue. This approach is rooted in community policing strategies. Community policing has consistently been proven effective at keeping crime and disorder to a minimum.

Officers partner with security staff members on all types of complaints; lost children or property, disorderly behavior, safety hazards, retail theft, etc. When not handling calls, officers provide a visible presence within each facility by interacting with the public while on foot patrol.

Officer JR Nauseda, assisted by Officer Kirk Helgesen, presented a highly informative session on DUI/drugged drivers.  Officer Nauseda reminded the class that the legal limit for intoxication is still .08 in Illinois, and that the first DUI arrest is a “class A misdemeanor,” which means it’s an actual crime, not just a “regular” traffic ticket. A typical DUI arrest costs a defendant around $15,000 and loss of their driving privileges for at least 3 months.

A highlight of this hour was class participation in a field sobriety test demonstration.  Specialized goggles were worn to simulate the effect of alcohol or drugs. Students learned that they could barely stand up while wearing the goggles much less successfully perform the tests. 

Finally, the class went outdoors to watch a “felony stop” demonstration. Felony stops are conducted when officers possess specific information that vehicle occupants have committed, or are about to commit, a felony-level crime.  Felony stops are coordinated with numerous officers and police vehicles. The emphasis is to safely contain, then remove vehicle occupants while protecting the public, offenders, and police personnel at and near the scene.

Next week (03/24/16) students will be exposed to arrest procedures, use of force parameters, and defensive tactics.

Deb (and husband Tim) Dineen – current CPA Alumni Association Board Secretary

Week #4:

Gurnee Citizen Police Academy Class #27

On 03/24/16 Officer Darren Baker presented a compelling program about use of force. He asked us "What's really important? Your wallet, your purse, your car? What would you be willing to die for?" The point; during a robbery, just give the perpetrators what they want.

Then he asked us "Is there defense without damage?" Force has to be necessary. An officer oftentimes has only a split second to determine what is “reasonable force.”

We were asked to make a list of the traits we felt a street fighter would have. Out of that list, how many of those traits do each of us have? We learned that in order to be effective in a fight we need to possess a skill set. Most important, we need to have a plan!

How to lose a fight: Expect attacker to be lenient on us; we under-respond or fail to get angry and fight back. In order to win, one needs to get angry, create pain, create fear, create lack of oxygen, create lack of sight, or have the use of weapons.

The officers spent some time explaining the importance of having an awareness of our surroundings at all times. Being mentally prepared is a big part of surviving an unpleasant encounter.

The remainder of the class was a hands on activity to show us how to defend ourselves from attackers. Officer Dion Synder was the "victim" in most scenarios, but a few courageous volunteers participated as victims as well. Thanks to Officer Synder for taking one (or several) for the team!

We were shown how to get out of various types of holds, as well as how to inflict pain on certain pressure points in order to escape an attack.

Week #5 (03/31/16) will focus on crime scene and evidence processing.

Sharon Ward and Joyce King CPA Alumni Association members

Week #5:

Gurnee Citizen Police Academy Class #27

On Thursday March 31st, 2016 the CPA focused on crime scene and evidence processing. The class was led by CSO Chris Saffell, with assistance from Officers Marty DePerte, Bill Stashkiw, Kirk Helgesen and Detective Tracy Pugliese.

Chris started off by asking the class if we have all seen “CSI” on TV, and then explained how that is NOT reality. Crimes are never “solved” in 60 minutes, especially when forensic data needs to be gathered, processed, packaged, analyzed, interpreted, documented, and preserved. Gurnee has 18 evidence technicians. Each work closely with the Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Laboratory personnel specifically on physical evidence.

The class split up into four groups and we had a made up crime described to the group. Then we rotated through stages of the mock crime scene to try our hands at being evidence technicians. We had Tracy leading the fingerprinting and blood evidence portion. She explained the differences in various finger printer powders and under which circumstances you would use each type. Then we got to collect a sample from a stain and field-test it for the presumptive presence of blood.

Then we moved into the room where the actual (mock) crime occurred. Kirk Helgesen explained bullets, their lands and groves, bullet trajectory and guns in general. This was very informative and everyone walked away with much more knowledge of this subject. We went over victim and witness statements, then compared those with what the crime scene evidence seemed to be indicating.  

The next stage was footprint impressions. We had a volunteer use his footwear to make a footprint and Chris showed us the different items they can use to collect this evidence. My group had lots of questions and Chris answered all of them. With her many years of service (over 30), it’s obvious she is an expert in her field.

Week #6 (04/07/16) will focus on automated traffic enforcement, the investigations division, and crime prevention.

Week #6

Gurnee Citizen Police Academy Class #27

Week 6 was held on April 7th, 2016 and was devoted to automated traffic enforcement, the investigations division and crime prevention.

Automated Traffic Enforcement:

Philip Brunell is the department’s traffic safety technician. He is the gatekeeper for all traffic enforcement programs within the village, including automated traffic enforcement; more commonly known as red light cameras.  The singular goal of the automated traffic enforcement program is to increase compliance with red lights, thereby reducing traffic crashes and injuries that result from them.

A group of specially-trained officers review automated traffic enforcement violation recommendations as part of their daily patrol responsibilities. Officers use their discretion as if they would if they had observed the violation on the street in person. If the officer approves a red light camera notice, a civil penalty is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. Drivers are not identified as forward-facing photo enforcement systems are not allowed by Illinois law.  These civil penalties do not get reported to the Illinois Secretary of State unless a vehicle owner accumulates 5 of more unpaid notices.

Approximately 43% of recommended red light camera violations are approved by officers. The remaining 57% are rejected for any number of reasons.

Phils traffic safety program responsibility includes ensuring integrity is maintained, that programs are conducted within the framework laid out by statute and transparent, that reporting requirements are met, and to provide unparalleled customer service to those who need it.

Investigations Division:

Detective Matt Nietfeldt opened the session with a short history of his career with the Gurnee Police Department.  He was an undercover officer for three years, and was unrecognizable today from the pictures he showed the class from his undercover days.  His specialty in the investigations division is cell phone forensics.

Detectives are provided with a myriad of equipment and resources to assist them with conducting their investigations.

When a call comes in, it is the patrol officer who takes the initial report.  It is then assigned to a detective based upon case load and area of expertise.  Once a case is assigned, time is spent writing and compiling documents for the report, then consultation with the States Attorneys Office. After case review an arrest warrant may be issued. The arrest on a particular case is typically followed by a bond hearing, preliminary hearing, grand jury proceedings, pre-trial conferences, suppression hearings and then the trial.

Crime Prevention:

This topic was presented by the departments Crime Prevention Specialist Tom Agos.  Tom opened his presentation by explaining that crime prevention improves the quality of life for every community.  He indicated that there are 10 principles of crime prevention, with the first one being “preventing crime is everyone’s business.”  In Gurnee, the police department encourages residents and visitors to be actively engaged crime prevention.

One program that has a deep impact in the community is neighborhood watch. Meetings are held twice a year for each participating neighborhood, of which there are 33.  At these meetings, crime statistics for the particular neighborhood are shared. Then problems specific to the neighborhood are discussed. Meeting typically end with some type of training program centered on the prevention of crime. If your neighborhood is not part of the program, talk to your neighbors to see if they are interested in starting a program.  If they are, contact Tom Agos at 847-599-7180.

Week #7 (04/14/16) will focus on internal investigations and the departments partnership with the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System (NIPAS).

Deb (and husband Tim) Dineen – current CPA Alumni Association Board Secretary