The 12-week Edmonds Community Police Academy was a free opportunity for private citizens to learn about law enforcement. (Jennifer Bardsley)

The 12-week Edmonds Community Police Academy was a free opportunity for private citizens to learn about law enforcement. (Jennifer Bardsley)

An inside look at how law enforcement works

A pregnant mother. A man who rescues abused horses and donkeys. A new father. A softball coach. These were some of the people I had the privilege of learning from the past three months, and all of them were officers in the Edmonds Police Department. Organized by Officer Tabatha Shoemake, the Edmonds Community Police Academy was an opportunity for citizens to get an inside look at how law enforcement works. It covered everything from homicide investigation to traffic stops.

The main reason I signed up for this free program was because as an author, I wanted to be better able to write about police work in my books. Every Thursday night was packed with information and I took copious notes for future reference. I was there for my writing career, but the knowledge I gained as a citizen was profound. I realized there were basic things about law enforcement that I’d been ignorant about my entire life.

Take civilian jobs, for example. I did not know that there were civilian jobs at the police department. In fact, the Edmonds Police Department has 71 authorized positions, which includes 55 officers, 3 command staff and 13 civilians. The records department presentation was fascinating. They handle everything from public information requests to concealed carry permit licenses. If you want to help your community but don’t want to become an officer, a civilian job could be right for you.

The Edmonds Police Department has nine positions vacant right now, with seven of those being for officers. They look for people with pristine background checks and exceptional customer service skills. Here’s another cool new thing I learned. Officer trainees start earning money right off the bat. They are paid to attend police academy. If you know someone who is interested in law enforcement, they can email policecareers@edmondswa.gov or call 425-257-4689 for more information.

Another thing I learned was about economics. I used to be a teacher. I’ve always known that affluent cities usually have better-funded schools than poorer ones. It turns out it’s the same way with law enforcement. Well-funded departments like in Edmonds have some of the best safety equipment available. They go above and beyond in terms of officer training, too, because they have the budget to do so. The Edmonds Police Department is one of approximately 60 accredited law enforcement agencies in the state. The majority of agencies don’t reach that level of accreditation. I’m going to remember that the next time I pay my astronomically high property tax bill. Yes, it’s costly, but Edmonds residents are paying for a police force with expert training in emotional intelligence, deescalation tactics and judicious use of force.

One of the most memorable classes was taught by Snohomish County 911. Before that presentation I had the false notion that when I called 911 the dispatcher would know exactly where I was calling from. This isn’t the case because Snohomish County 911 doesn’t yet have “Next Gen 911” capability. If you call 911 it’s important to tell the dispatcher your address at least two times.

The biggest takeaway from attending this program was humanizing people who wear the badge. The only police officer I’d ever met before this year was my D.A.R.E. officer in sixth grade. Now, I’ve met at least a dozen officers, heard their life stories and seen pictures of their families. When I come across a police car while driving around Edmonds, I look closely to see if it’s someone I recognize.

Will there be a crime novel in my future? Probably not, but I could see myself writing a small town romance about a fraud victim someday. Even if I never write one word though, the civic knowledge I gained was worth it.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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