Out of curiosity, and being a passionate advocate for making our greater St. Cloud, MN community the best possible place for all, I recently completed the Metro Citizens Police Academy (MCPA), which I think is one of this region’s better kept secrets. I first learned about the MCPA when it was established 16 years ago, during my tenure as Sartell City Administrator.  From the beginning, I was privy to the secret. But the vast majority of the people I interface with have never heard of it – and I interface with a lot of people.

MCPA is an 8-week program offered as a collaborative undertaking by the St. Cloud, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, Waite Park and St. Joseph police departments. The program does a fabulous job of helping the lay public attain a better understanding of police training, procedures and philosophy through classroom and hand-on training that is conducted by area police officers. I’ll admit that adding four hours to my Thursday evening calendar for eight weeks was a significant challenge. Hands down, it was well worth the time invested and I highly recommend it to others.  

 One of the many outcomes I attained during my tenure as Sartell City Administrator was an acute respect and appreciation for the men and women who choose careers in the public safety field. My experience with the MCPA program has only served to deepen my respect, admiration, compassion and appreciation for law enforcement professionals – and especially those who are serving our local communities. We are so fortunate and so blessed.

 While the purpose of the program is to educate participants, it is also jam packed with fun that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere other than through the MCPA. Where else can you go to learn and experience:

  •  Handcuffing – not nearly as easy as it appears on your favorite TV program
  • Taser gun use – including the opportunity to be tased, which I chose to observe rather than experience
  • Handgun target shooting – turns out I’m a pretty darned good shot!
  • Defensive tactics – again, not near as easy as it appears on TV
  • Emergency vehicle operations – truth be told, I’m not all that great at driving a squad at a high rate of speed with multiple obstacles in my path while also providing a comprehensible description on the radio
  • Use of force simulations – while my assigned partner and I prevailed in the first simulation, we both were quickly ‘toasted’ in our second one
  • S.W.A.T. – special weapons and tactics
  • Canine officer demonstrations – good luck fooling their noses or escaping their pursuit!
  • Evidence collection, crime scenes & prosecution – truths and fallacies of fingerprinting, DNA, witness accounts, etc. 

 The academy is expected to be offered again next fall and each of the five police departments will be accepting applications from residents of their respective cities in late summer.

Bravo to the law enforcement professionals that serve our greater St. Cloud region! You’re the best of the best. No doubt about it.

Patti Gartland is President of the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation