As they waited for their certificates of graduation from the four-week citizens police academy, the senior citizen participants beamed with pride.
Then, the moment arrived — one by one their names were called and they each walked up, shook hands with police officials and city leaders, then took pictures with their certificates hoisted high. The atmosphere was light and festive. Camera lights flashed. Some friends and family members showed up and several city leaders stopped by to congratulate them.
One of the participants was Verna Rivers, who has a special needs son. East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore told her how important it was for him to be fingerprinted and vital information concerning him entered into the police database so if he ever wondered off, the police would have some information about him already on file.
The ceremony was held earlier this week at the Jazz at Walter Circle building in East St. Louis.
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Another graduate, Frank Adams, talked about how informative the academy was and how more seniors, adults and young people need to participate to see how the police can work together with the community when the community works with the police department.
“We learned how to be more watchful of the things going on around us. And, if we feel the situation is not right, we should get as much information as we can and then call police. We were told that we should not get involved with the situation as we could get hurt.,” he said.
Clara Rockett said, “I am very happy that our police department took time out to come to our building and talk to us about things that are very important to keep us safe. I am more comfortable now because I have a better understanding how the department can work with me to keep me and the others who live here as safe as possible.”
Floore had the men and women in the building rolling with laughter when he said, “I am a grandmoma’s boy. I enjoyed coming here with some members of my staff and others who work in law enforcement to explain how the law works and how the police can work with the citizens to create a safer environment.
“We talked to them about public safety, identity theft, how they should respond to police if they are stopped and asked questions. We talked about police officer safety. We told them that they should dial 411 to make a report if it is not an emergency. But, if it is an emergency they need to dial 911. We discussed things like elderly abuse, domestic abuse, what to do if they have special needs individuals in their families and more,” FLoore said.
“This was a good group. They were always engaged and they had a lot of good questions. We are leaving this group feeling really good and we know they will do the things they’ve been taught to protect themselves and those who they live around. They know they are our eyes and ears because we can’t be everywhere at once,” Floore said.
Latoya Greenwood, chairman of the city’s Public Safety Committee, greeted the seniors warmly and cast upon them a lot of praise for being dedicated to the police academy and coming to each session, and paying attention to the new information they learned.
Floore credited City Manager Deletra Hudson with giving him the green light to move around the community more “to let the people know that we are for them. We want to go home at the end of our shifts and we want to teach people what our job entails and talk to them about doing things to keep from being arrested and how to stay safe. So, we thank the city manager,” Floore said.
Hudson told the graduates she was very pleased with them “for deciding to be a part of East St. Louis’ public safety team.
“I know we have resources at the city. I encourage you to get involved and to pull somebody else along with you. Let them know you’re involved and that there’s a better way and better choices to be made,” Hudson said.
Mayor Alvin L Parks, Jr. told the seniors, “Police need citizens because they actually see what’s going on in their neighborhoods. If we have individuals out here doing wrong and they stay out here, they will continue doing wrong. You are the eyes and ears,” Parks said.
He added, “You all have lived the lives we hope our young people will live to see.”
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.