Our class recently completed the 2021 Citizen’s Academy sponsored by the Helena Police Department. Through the leadership and initiative of Chief Steve Hagen and Captain Brett Petty, Helena residents now have an opportunity to get an up-close look at HPD’s operations. This was a fantastic learning experience!
Our Citizen’s Academy was held on Tuesday evenings for eight weeks, from 6:30-9 p.m. We gained a better understanding of the criminal justice system and the role of law enforcement in our community. We’d like to encourage our fellow citizens to sign up for future academies. They’ll be offered on a yearly basis in the fall. Registration for the 2022 HPD Citizen’s Academy will begin next summer.
The academy was very engaging. It included a combination of informational lectures, demonstrations, and mock scenes. Topics covered included Patrol and traffic stops; K9 Unit; SWAT and negotiations team; dispatch; armed intruder/active shooter training; MT Law Enforcement Academy qualifications and training; the 4th Amendment, case law and use of force applications and simulations; and, criminal investigations including evidence collection and records retention.
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The mock scenes we participated in were eye-opening. We had to make split-second decisions in critical and uncontrollable situations. How would I respond if an armed intruder or active shooter entered my building? As a patrol officer, what would I do when approaching a vehicle and the driver suddenly grabs a firearm? How would I de-escalate a dangerous, evolving situation using reasonable force? As a 911 dispatcher, could I respond to multiple, incoming calls and direct the appropriate resources to help someone facing a safety threat, mental health, or medical crisis?
Our class came away with a greater appreciation of the challenges our law enforcement and 911 dispatch personnel face daily. We are grateful to everyone who was so generous with their time and worked hard to make this first Citizen’s Academy such a great experience: Chief Steve Hagen, Captain Brett Petty, Lieutenant Cory Bailey, Lieutenant Jayson Zander, Lieutenant Randy Ranalli, Sergeant Joshua Ray and HPD Canine Filu, Sergeant Domingo Zapata, Corporal Noal Petty, Officer Mark Baker, Officer Dakota Becker, Officer Jose Guerrero, Officer Vittorio Ottanelli, Detective Nathan Casey, Evidence Technician Rachel Dickie, Volunteer Coordinator Erin Fitzpatrick, 911 Operations Manager Zachary Slattery, and Lead Dispatcher Chanel Waples.
Helena is fortunate to have a police department that is engaged and invested in our community. The professionalism our law enforcement officers exhibit and the many ways they serve and protect us every day is admirable. Thank you, HPD.
Submitted by the 2021 Citizen’s Academy members: Thomas Cordingley, Sally Davis, Kathy DeMarinis, Wendy Fox, John Holiday, Jordan Hopkins, Angela Hyyppa, Lisa Irvin, Katherine Passage, Samara Sant, Andy Shirtliff, Patricia Steinwand and Shawn White Wolf.