Antioch Police Department’s first Citizens Academy graduates with Chief Allan Cantando (left) and other department leaders. (From left to right) Mindy Amerine, Captain Tamany Brooks, Tina Biles, Hans Ho, Barbara Ackerman-Brown, Michael Morris, Sandy Hartrick, Francisco Muñiz, Harry Thurston, and Lts. Diane Aguinaga and Tony Morefield. (Not pictured – graduate Lorenzo Macon)
By Allen Payton
The Antioch Police Department honored the graduates of their first Citizens Academy during a ceremony at the police facility, Wednesday evening, September 2. A total of nine Antioch residents completed the two month course.
The academy provided an opportunity for community members to meet the police officers who protect and serve our city. The intent was to educate the community on the duties, training, investigation techniques and situations police officers and other members of the police department may encounter.
Those who attended the academy were given the opportunity to participate in some of the activities police officers perform as part of their every day duties. Hands on experiences included fingerprinting, defensive tactics, interacting with a K-9 and handler, and riding along with an officer.
“I want to congratulate all of you for going through our first Citizens Academy,” said Chief Allan Cantando. “This is something that’s not only good for the citizens but good for the police department.”
“Thank you to Lt. Aguinaga for putting it, together,” he added.
He then asked the graduates what they liked and disliked about the eight-week course.
Hans Ho, is a past chairman of Antioch’s Police Crime Prevention Commission and head of the city’s Neighborhood Watch program said, “What I liked about it I got a lot of good information. I’ve been here 12 years and I found out how much I didn’t know.”
APD Challenge Coin given to each of the academy graduates.
“I feel the same way,” said Barbara Brown-Ackerman, who is also a member of the Volunteers In Police Service. “The information. There are so many people out there who don’t know what all the officers do. They have no idea. I’m able to tell them something. I really liked all the classes.”
Graduate Sandy Hartrick, whose husband and daughter were in attendance with a “Congrats” balloon, shared what she liked about the program.
“I think it’s the knowledge you gain,” she said. “Everyone is doing so many tasks. It’s not like you’re just a police officer, writing tickets. There are a million facets of the job. It was very eye opening…how much of themselves the officers have to give to the job. Keeping in tune to keep themselves safe…thinking about themselves, thinking about the citizens.
Francisco Muñiz offered a different view.
“I didn’t like the class. I loved it,” he said to laughter of all in attendance.
“Good,” Cantando joked. “I thought I was going to have to use some pepper spray.”
Muñiz then shared what he didn’t like.
“Maybe a little more time with the weapons,” he stated. “It would be useful for the average citizen to know to handle the weapons.”
Graduate Mindy Amerine enjoyed other aspects of the course.
“The CSI. The drug unit was especially eye opening to me,” she shared. “The gang unit, knowing the tags. The firing range. Maybe shooting another clip would be good. Getting to use the dust and fingerprints. It was a great overall experience with every single class.”
“I used to have a tunnel vision of the police department,” said Tina Biles. “Now I have this 360 degree view. We have a great police force and I’m thankful for it.”
“Those scenarios were so stressful,” she continued. “I failed every time,” to which everyone laughed.
“They were awesome and terrifying at the same time,” Biles added. “I would have signed up for a longer course.”
Graduate Michael Morris said it was the depth of the class.
“It was really fascinating. I was most interested in the drugs and gangs. Because my kids are teenagers.”
“I’d like two ride-alongs instead of one,” he offered as his critique. He wanted one at the end after all the classes, which lasted three hours per night. Other students suggested the course last longer or last four hours per night to cover everything.
“It was great,” Harry Thurston said as he got choked up. “You let us behind the blue door. I can’t believe it. All the things you guys go through is just amazing. I would like more. Stretch me further.”
“What I learned is the people who taught us were like family,” he continued. “Because you have earned more respect out of me than I thought I could ever give.”
“I could not retain everything that was being thrown at us,” Thurston added.
Cantando responded to all the positive comments.
“What you said is exactly what we wanted it to be,” he said. “We are a family here at the police department. We couldn’t do our job without our family. We couldn’t do our job without you. Just the fact that you went through this program…you are family with us, now. You are our ambassadors, now. You know more than most of the public knows that officers go through.”
He then presented each graduate with an official Antioch Police Department mug, a diploma and a Challenge Coin.
“It’s something we give out in the department,” Cantando said about the coin. “The reason why I give it to them, it’s to tell them the values we want them to represent – Pride, Integrity and Courage.”
The class then took group photos and enjoyed some cake.
Chief Cantando presents Citizens Academy graduate Lorenzo Macon with his diploma and gifts.
Then, their final classmate, Lorenzo Macon, was able to show up.
Cantando presented him with his gifts, as well.
“You can’t buy these,” he said referring to the Challenge Coins. “If you have one you’ve been given it by someone in the department.”
Macon shared his thoughts on the course.
“I liked the blood curdling and adrenaline rush from the scenarios,” he said to more laughter. “This is the first one. We pioneered this thing. I look forward to some future endeavors.”
Those include a possible position with APD.
“There’s some level-one reserve or CSO positions that might come up that I’m interested in,” said Macon, who is currently an armed officer with Strategic Threat Management in Antioch. “This gave me one foot in the door.”
Another suggestion by the graduates was better marketing of the academy, so more people can participate in it, in the future.
“I want to thank all of you for giving me your time and input,” Cantando stated. “We don’t have another scheduled as of yet. But we will definitely market it.”