January 9, 2013
By Dan Moran
When the Waukegan Citizens Police Academy returns for a new semester in early February, it will feature not only its traditional curriculum but a new twist — courses offered in Spanish.
The academy is a free informational service that typically meets one night a week for 10 weeks, offering instruction topics like the criminal justice system, evidence collection, and police patrol and investigation.
For the 2014 spring semester, the course will be offered on Thursday nights to the community at-large starting on Feb. 6, while the Spanish-language version will run on Tuesday nights starting on Feb. 4.
Sgt. Cory Kelly, who coordinates the academy, said the Spanish program will be a condensed version of the traditional course, with a planned schedule of six weeks.
“Instead of having a two-hour class on one topic, there will be about an hour of instruction,” Kelly said on Thursday, Jan. 9. “They’re going to have the exact same material, it’s just going to be shorter until we see how it goes.”
The move is a reflection of the city’s demographic profile, with the 2010 U.S. Census reporting 53.4 percent of Waukegan’s 89,000 residents as Hispanic or Latino.
In Mundelein, where 30.1 percent of the population was reported as Hispanic or Latino in 2010, an inaugural Spanish-speaking citizens police academy was held last fall, with participation running roughly on par with the village’s academy for the community at-large.
According to the Mundelein Police Department website, a graduation ceremony was held on Nov. 21 for 27 graduates of the program. Deputy Chief John Monahan said Thursday, Jan. 9, that a springtime citizens academy generally draws 15 to 20 participants, while an academy for seniors in the fall sees up to 30 students.
Monahan added that the idea of a Latino Citizens Police Academy was initiated by Chief Eric Guenther after he was sworn in last February.
“He felt that offering a police academy geared toward (the) Spanish-speaking residents would help bring in people from the Hispanic community, and it did,” Monahan said. “In fact, we’re planning right now to host another Latino police academy, probably in April this year, due to the popularity.”
The Mundelein program included nine, once-a-week classes run by Spanish-speaking Cmdr. Fred Kliora and two department clerks who are also fluent in the language. Monahan said the curriculum followed the traditional class as closely as possible, depending on the Spanish-speaking experts that could be brought in.
“We had Judge (Jorge) Ortiz come out and talk about the court system, we had a dog handler that spoke Spanish,” Monahan said. “It’s not exactly the same, but it’s very, very similar to what we have for the Citizens Police Academy and the Seniors Police Academy.”
In Waukegan, Kelly said about 20 officers or department personnel have Spanish-language skills and will be able to provide some instruction if needed. She added that while the initial class will have a cap of 18 participants — the same as with the traditional academy — the hope is that a wide field of applicants will come in.
“This is us trying to reach out to our Latino communty and better connect with them,” Kelly said. “Our hope is that it goes so well that we have a waiting list and have to do it again in the fall.”
Source: Mundelein Review