NIU Campus Police train residents


Morgan Brickley, Fraternity and Sorority Live associate director, shows the certificate she received after graduating from the Citizen Police Academy 2017 spring program.

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — NIU Campus Police is preparing for its citizen police training academy.

The 11-week Citizen Police Academy program is free and allows DeKalb residents and the campus community the opportunity to partake in a simulated training exercise to offer perspective into the work of the men and women who’ve taken an oath to ensure the public’s safety.

Officer Shaunda Wilson, NIU Campus Police and coordinator for the academy, said training begins Jan. 24 and aims to have class sizes serving 15 students.

The training takes place throughout campus and offers participants the opportunity to do simulated fielding dispatch calls, training exercises, police stops and a mock trial with Kane County Judge John McAdams.

“Our goal is to assist the community and police officers,” Wilson said. “This is an opportunity for us to assist each other.”

Wilson said training will be 6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and will last about three hours. Participants must commit to the weekly meeting but are allowed up to two missed classes without affecting their graduation from the academy.

After each course, the students and officers end the night with a debriefing that allows the participants to have any questions they have about the day’s training answered.

All of the officers who are involved with the training exercises are volunteers, Wilson said.

Tom Phillips, NIU Campus Police chief, said the idea to introduce the academy occurred after he, along with other leaders in his department, attended a police summit concerned with improving relationships between police and communities following the riots that occured in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a June 8 NIU Today release.

Wilson said the program allows officers and community members to build relationships and to learn from one another.

Community members sometimes approach officers with questions that officials, at times, think are common knowledge because of their training. The program reminds officers not everyone possesses the same information, Wilson said.

“It’s an opportunity to remind us that they don’t know that and that I need to be a little patient,” Wilson said.

Morgan Brickley, Fraternity and Sorority Life associate director, said she decided to commit to the academy last spring because of her position working with students who live in the larger DeKalb community but ended up walking away with a new perspective of the police.

“It really humanized the police for me,” Brickley said. “When an officer does a traffic stop, they are way more afraid of you than you’re afraid of them. As a human being, putting myself in their shoes, that was eye-opening.”

Brickley said other participants would ask questions about certain police practices that she also questioned but understood once the officers explained their actions.

“There were certainly times I thought ‘Yeah, why do the police do that?’ and I can’t think of in my brain what that specific thing was,” Brickley said. “But after we learned about it I remember thinking ‘OK, OK I get it now.’”

Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden was part of the 2017 graduating class and said she enjoyed her experience but found the greatest challenge during the program was working the dispatch.

“That’s when I realized I need to keep my day job,” Edghill-Walden said. “That was hard. People calling in, police calling in, different people calling in, trying to manage all these crises at the same time.”

Edghill-Walden said the training is good for those who support the police but also benefits those who are skeptical of police practices.

“We had a lot of people in the class who [were skeptical of the police], and they may not have changed their perspectives,” Edghill-Walden said. “They may still have concerns about the police, but there’s a better understanding about the nuances of policing.”