Cit­i­zen Police Academy gives be­hind-scenes view of police work

Bern, Muh­len­berg, North­ern Berks Re­gional and Lau­rel­dale police com­bined forces to host eight-week course for res­i­dents

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - FRONT PAGE - By Rox­anne Richard­son

Bern Town­ship, Muh­len­berg Town­ship, North­ern Berks Re­gional and Lau­rel­dale police com­bined forces to host Cit­i­zen Police Academy, pro­vid­ing the com­mu­nity an op­por­tu­nity to go be­hind the scenes and ex­pe­ri­ence police work.

De­signed to be in­for­ma­tive, in­ter­est­ing, thought pro­vok­ing and fun, Cit­i­zen Police Academy is an an­nual eight-week course for res­i­dents 18 and older from Bern, Maiden­creek, Muh­len­berg and On­te­launee town­ships, and Lau­rel­dale and Leesport bor­oughs. Start­ing on Feb. 13, academy classes are held ev­ery Tues­day night at Muhlen-

berg Town­ship Mu­nic­i­pal Build­ing.

The first four weeks dealt with police struc­ture and law en­force­ment, pa­trol op­er­a­tions and traf­fic en­force­ment/MCSAP (Mo­tor Car­rier Safety As­sis­tance Pro­gram), ve­hi­cle and crimes code. March 6 was about crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tions and crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Pa­trol Sergeant Michael Wi­ley, as­sisted by Pa­trol Sergeant Steve Sei­del, both from Bern Town­ship Police, cov­ered Crime Scene In­ves­ti­ga­tions. De­tec­tive Ra­mon Cara­ballo cov­ered Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“Ev­ery­thing we do is to pre­serve life and main­tain safe com­mu­nity for peo­ple and some­times it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily look like that’s what we are do­ing, but there’s a good rea­son as to why,” said Wi­ley.

Pro­cess­ing of a crime scene be­gins with the first of­fi­cer and is con­tin­ued un­til the crime scene is re­leased and the de­tec­tives then carry on the case. The in­tegrity of the ev­i­dence needs to be main­tained to prove some­one’s guilt be­yond a rea­son­able doubt. The re­spond­ing of­fi­cer must think how to han­dle the scene from other of­fi­cers ar­riv­ing to civil­ians, even wit­nesses, in or near the scene. The first re­spon­der needs to neu­tral­ize the crime scene and make sure it’s safe. They have no idea if some­one is still present in­side.

“It’s the un­known. Ev­ery time they get called for a do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tion or ev­ery time they pull a ve­hi­cle over for a check, it’s that un­known,” said Ste­wart Lerch, Muh­len­berg. “Ev­ery­body watches CSI and it’s a lot more in­tense than what you re­ally see on TV.”

There is a list of pri­or­i­ties. Once the crime scene is neu­tral­ized, med­i­cal as­sis­tance is pro­vided; the num­ber one pri­or­ity is pro­vid­ing help for some­body. Ev­i­dence can get tainted in the process and police need to be aware of that.

The police may need the as­sis­tance of the me­dia to in­form the pub­lic of a sit­u­a­tion, put a de­scrip­tion out, or en­cour­age wit­nesses to come forth. It’s a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship.

“News me­dia comes to us for a lot of what they want to sell their medium with. When peo­ple see that, they draw con­clu­sions,” said Wi­ley. “In to­day’s world of so­cial me­dia, you just can’t do any­thing with­out it spread­ing like wild­fire and this gives us the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plain to peo­ple this is why we do what we do rather than the pub­lic as a whole mak­ing as­sump­tions about why we’re do­ing it.”

Wi­ley said he en­joys be­ing able to ed­u­cate peo­ple. He said a lot of peo­ple draw what they see in the news.

In­for­ma­tion leaked too fast or in­ac­cu­rate sto­ries spread can af­fect the out­come of a trail. Wi­ley said there were some cases where a high pro­file trial had to be moved to other lo­ca­tions be­cause of this.

“We re­spond to an in­ci­dent and we have peo­ple com­ing out of the wood­work try­ing to see what we are do­ing and there they are with their cam­eras,” said Wi­ley.

Perime­ters are set to push peo­ple back to keep the scene out of the pub­lic view and main­tain the in­tegrity of a search.

Ra­mon Cara­ballo, Muh­len­berg Town­ship Police and Berks County De­tec­tive, said, “There is no for­mula to solv­ing a crime. It nor­mally takes peo­ple com­ing for­ward and pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion as small as a clue can be that would lead us to solve very se­ri­ous crimes.”

Cara­ballo said police work in part­ner­ship with the com­mu­nity in order to solve crimes.

Muh­len­berg res­i­dent Bar­bara Con­rad learned much about dif­fer­ent types of crimes and what police have to do.

“What re­ally im­pressed me last year was how they have to make de­ci­sions in a split sec­ond and that can be so, I imag­ine for them, ter­ri­fy­ing be­cause you don’t want to kill any­body if you don’t have to, but if you feel threat­ened and so it was like we got an in­sight into all those dif­fer­ent things,” said Con­rad, who has re­spect and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for police, but even more so since com­ing to class.

Kathy Seyler, Muh­len­berg res­i­dent, said, “It is nice to know all th­ese peo­ple are out there look­ing out for us and tak­ing care of us.

Sergeant Joel V. Marino, com­mu­nity ser­vices of­fi­cer, Muh­len­berg Town­ship Police, hopes the academy par­tic­i­pants gained knowl­edge and ap­pre­ci­a­tion about police work.

“Hope­fully we give peo­ple a new per­spec­tive on all the things that we do right and how hard it is to do it right,” said Marino. “It’s a good in­side look at what police do with­out ac­tu­ally get­ting be­hind the wheel of a police car and strap­ping on a gun belt.”

ROX­ANNE RICHARD­SON - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Bar­bara Con­rad, Muh­len­berg res­i­dent, dusts for fin­ger­prints on a glass dur­ing the Cit­i­zen Police Academy on March 6.

ROX­ANNE RICHARD­SON - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Pa­trol Sergeant Steve Sei­del, Bern Town­ship Police, giv­ing in­struc­tion dur­ing the Cit­i­zen Police Academy on March 6.

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