By Doc Souza
This is the first in a series of 10 weekly reports on the Elk Grove Police Department Citizen’s Academy
I have been wanting to take the EGPD Citizen’s Academy for a couple of years. I went on a ride along just about a year ago and got a little glimpse at what takes place, so taking this class is a good opportunity to learn more about the department. It is a 10 week course. We meet for 3 hours, once a week. This class has 18 people in it. Each week we will learn about some aspect of policing. We will get to go on a ride along, hear from detectives, take a simulator where we get to use actual guns, but not bullets obviously. We will get to see the dispatchers in actions, learn about forensics and more. My plan is to give a little more information each week. I am not allowed to take photos or video, with the exception of taking a photo at the beginning or the end of the session of the instructors, provided they are not undercover officers.
A little background on the department. In 2000 Elk Grove residents voted to become a city. The new city entered into a contract with the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department to provide police services. The police cars said Elk Grove Police, but these were Sheriff’s deputies. In 2006 the city council decided they wanted to have local control over the police department and created the Elk Grove Police Department. They handpicked, I think 116 officers from local agencies. Some were part of the Sheriff’s Department contract who transferred to the new police department.
Our instructor is Officer Kawamoto. He is a veteran of the department and one of the original members from 2006. He is currently a POP (problem oriented policing). Their job is to work on issues beyond the normal patrol officers duties. If you have a problem home in your area or some sort of ongoing issue, the POP officers take over from the patrol officers to work closely with the residents or businesses in the area. Officer Kawamoto is taking over for Officer Farinha who is transitioning out of POP. He told me they generally stay 2-3 years before rotating to give other officers a chance. Officer Kawamoto will be our main instructor and facilitate our meeting with other officers and members of the department.
Chief Noblett greeted us and told us a little more about the department. Noblett himself is a 34 year law enforcement veteran and 28 year Elk Grove resident. He has been with the department since 2009, after leaving the Lodi police department. He became chief 2 years ago. On a personal note, I have met with and talked to Chief Noblett on several occasions. He is very open and accommodating. He is well liked by the officers and the community. He’s a very good public speaker. He has emphasized community policing with the officers. That’s why you will see them stop by a lemonade stand or participate in various programs like exercising with kids that have autism. He believes that the officers need to interact with the community and it shows.
Noblett said the department currently has 146 sworn officers and around 90 non sworn personnel. That includes dispatchers, community service officers (they wear the blue shirts and drive police cars that designate them as CSO’s), and staff. The CSO’s help take some of the load off of patrol officers by handling traffic accidents and cold calls like burglaries, where there is no suspect present or any present danger. This allows patrol officers to focus on others aspects of policing. Noblett said 4 officers were recently added and the city hopes to keep adding more in the future. The city is actively recruiting more officers to add and also replace those who retire. He also stated what most of us already know, they are understaffed for the number of people living in Elk Grove.
Officers Kawamoto and Farinha talked to us about what we will see and do over the next 10 weeks. They also talked about what officers go through. Some of the emotional times and how they need to become emotionally detached at times. So if you see officers at the scene of a crime and they are smiling or maybe even laughing, it’s how they deal with it. They aren’t being disrespectful. They shared stories, some funny, some sad and sobering.
We also had the chance to ask questions. Some of the members asked their thoughts on some of the recent changes in some of the laws the past few years. What they liked about being a police officer, the public perception of police. It was very open and engaging. I look forward to the next 9 weeks and learning more that I can share with the community.