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Photo by Theo Tate
Richard Albl receives his certificate from Sgt. Matt Breihan at the Edwardsville Police Department Citizens Police Academy graduation ceremony on June 15.
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Photo by Theo Tate
Meagan Hardester was one of eight students who attended the Edwardsville Police Department Citizens Police Academy graduation ceremony on June 15.
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Photo by Theo Tate
Students from the first Edwardsville Police Department Citizens Police Academy had their graduation ceremony on June 15. (Front row, from left) Sgt. Matt Breihan, Kathleen Smock, Meagan Hardester, Caleigh Morrison, Amy Mills and Kathryn Kunz (back row) Carl Jason, Roderick Cheatham-Seay, Richard Albl and David Olson.
EDWARDSVILLE — A month ago, Kathleen Smock graduated with a bachelor’s degree at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
On June 15, Smock picked up another diploma. She became a graduate of the first Edwardsville Police Department Citizens Police Academy.
“Honestly, it’s one of the best experiences I had,” Smock said. “I always wanted to be a cop and this class kind of like pushed me more toward it. I’m very excited to start my career after this class. The officers are really nice. They really got in-depth with everything, so it’s a really good class.”
Smock was one of eight people who attended the graduation ceremony at the Edwardsville Police Department headquarters. The others were Richard Albl, Roderick Cheatham-Seay, Meagan Hardester, Carl Jason, Kathryn Kunz, Amy Mills, Caleigh Morrison and David Olson.
All of them completed the 10-week academy that began on April 13. Classes were held every Wednesday for three hours.
“We started out with 13 and we had a few who had to drop out due to new jobs and school requirements,” said Edwardsville Police Sgt. Matt Breihan, coordinator of the academy. “The way that we do it here is if you sign up for the class, you have to commit to the entire 10 weeks. If you cannot attend one or two classes, that doesn’t mean you’re kicked out.”
Hardester, who plans to graduate from SIUE in criminal justice next year, said being part of the first Edwardsville Police Department Citizens Police Academy was a good experience for her.
“I learned a lot on what they do every day and how funny they are,” said Hardester, who graduated from East Alton-Wood River High School in 2012.
Cheatham-Seay, who also graduated from SIUE in May, was scheduled to participate in another police academy outside Atlanta on June 20. He recently completed an internship with the Granite City Police Department.
Cheatham-Seay said he found out about the police academy at Edwardsville from a friend.
“I figured it was a good opportunity to get more knowledge,” he said.
Breihan said the academy was designed to strengthen the positive relationship between Edwardsville officers and residents.
“A lot of people get their education through TV,” Breihan said. “They hear the news and they watch TV and they try to put two and two together and a lot of times, that’s not what happens here. So our main goal here was to strengthen our relationship with the community and educate them on what law enforcement does behind the scenes.”
For 10 weeks, students at the academy got hands-on training on how to be police officers. They learned law review, traffic and DUI enforcement, firearms familiarization, drug trends, crime scene investigation, computer crimes and identity theft and the history of the Edwardsville Police Department. They also took a tour of the police building, fire department and the Madison County jail.
The 23-year-old Smock said she learned a lot about what it takes to be a police officer during the 10-week course.
“They really touched base on things like what you do after a traffic stop and situations you prepare yourself in and you have to be prepared for anything,” Smock said. “It kind of opens up your eyes for anything that can happen.”
The program was for adults 21 and older and the cost was $25, which included a T-shirt and supplies.
In the late 1990s, Breihan was a member of the police academy at the Collinsville Police Department. He joined the Edwardsville Police Department in 2002.
Breihan said when he came to Edwardsville, one of his goals was to have a police academy.
“It wasn’t until later on that I had the opportunity, the education and knowledge to create this type of program,” he said.
Originally from Chicago, Smock transferred to SIUE in 2013 after attending community college for a year. She said she immediately fell in love with Edwardsville when she arrived there.
“It’s a smaller town than where I’m used to,” Smock said.
In April, Smock was looking for jobs with the Edwardsville Police Department when she found out about the police academy online.
“I saw they had the academy,” said Smock, who got her degree in psychology and criminal justice. “I wanted to check it out, so I did. It’s one of the best decisions that I made.”
Smock said from the first day of class on April 13, she was really thrilled about being in the police academy.
“They made it really exciting,” Smock said. “They were all upbeat about it.”
Now, Smock is setting her sights on getting a job as a police officer.
“It will be a dream come true,” Smock said.