Build bridges between the public and law enforcement.
That point was stressed by District Court Judge Thomas Bice, who spoke to the graduating class of the second Fort Dodge/Webster County Citizen's Academy Tuesday evening.
"It's extremely important, as members of the community, that we build bridges and trust one another," he said.
-Messenger photos by Hans Madsen
Webster County Attorney Ricki Osborn, right, along with Assistant County Attorney Jordan Brackey listens during the last learning session for the Citizen’s Academy program Tuesday evening.
Citizen's Academy, an eight-week class that gives community members a behind-the-scenes look at various law enforcement and public safety agencies, shows participants a side of police and other agencies they may never have seen before, said Bice.
"Their goal is to protect and serve," he said. "You've had the opportunity to see their jobs inside and out."
Law enforcement, in particular, have the interest of the public at the forefront of their decisions, and deserve the respect of the community, he said.
"When that 911 call comes in, they don't have a choice about responding or not," Bice said. "They go."
Bice said improving the community is simple.
"Support what they do as they support you," he said. "Together we can make Fort Dodge a better place."
After Bice's speech, participants received their graduation certificates and were treated to cake.
In addition to graduation, students in the second Citizen's Academy class heard a presentation from Webster County Attorney Ricki Osborn on the operations of her office, and saw a training demonstration in the basement of the Webster County Law Enforcement Center.
Throughout the eight-week class, students heard from members of the Fort Dodge Police Department, Fort Dodge Fire Department, Webster County Sheriff's Department, Webster County attorney's office, Iowa State Patrol and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, among other organizations and agencies.
Lori Viken, of Fort Dodge, was one of the students in the second graduating class.
"I've always had a respect for law enforcement," Viken said. "But since I've been here, I just have more respect and appreciation for what they do."
Viken found the class engaging, and the questions that were asked by both the presenters and the students really made her think.
"I appreciate the fact that they're called in to deal with all types of situations," she said.
Some students, such as Paula Griffin, aren't from Webster County.
Griffin, of Blairsburg, said the class exceeded her expectations.
"I have a much better understanding and tremendous respect for everyone now," she said. "I'm very impressed with all they do."
She was most impressed by how the public safety partners in Citizen's Academy often have to make decisions on their feet.
"The decisions they have to make in a split-second are unbelievable," she said.
She said Citizen's Academy is something she would recommend to her friends, and suggested that it's something other communities should have as well.
"It's important for the members of the community to work together," Griffin said. "I do wish they would do this in Hamilton County and other communities."
Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody began Citizen's Academy last September after seeing its successes when he was a member of the Omaha Police Department.
Although no definitive dates have been set, Carmody said the goal is to have the third Citizen's Academy begin in mid-September.