Thursday, October 14, 2010

PSP Citizen's Police Academy: Week 1


by Annette Dashofy

It’s been over two years since I attended the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Citizen’s Police Academy. My certificate, pin, and class photo maintain a prominent spot above my desk. If you’re a writer who isn’t a cop, writing about cops, I doubt there is a better source of information and research than your local Citizen’s Police Academy.

So when I heard about another CPA, this one held by the Pennsylvania State Police, I printed out the registration form, filled it out and popped it in the mail in record time.

Class began last Tuesday evening at the Pittsburgh Technical Institute, a mere half hour drive from home (beats the hour and a half drive through rush hour traffic that I endured for the Pittsburgh classes).

Troopers Robin Mungo and Joe Christy led the orientation. First tidbit of knowledge gleaned: PA State Police don’t wear a badge. They have one, but don’t have to display it.

Once we’d all been officially signed in, Officer Mike Spagnoletti of Allegheny County Police Department took over and gave the class a rundown of his department.

Most counties have sheriff’s departments. Allegheny County, however, also has their police department, which originated in 1932. It has four divisions: Headquarters, Uniform, Detective, and Training. The Detective Division is further broken down into Homicide (and Allegheny County’s clearance rate is very high on homicides), Narcotics, and General Investigations.

Just a few odds and ends that you might find useful in your writing:

Part of the General Investigations unit involves audio-visual forensics. They clear up video or reconstruct damaged or destroyed tapes, CDs, or DVDs. I kept picturing NCIS’s McGee and Abby.

Those computers in police vehicles are called MDTs or Mobile Data Terminal.

Next week I’ll be back here on my regular Wednesday slot with CPA Week #2: the Driving Simulator.

In the meantime here are a few photos of our class room at PTI.

This is a poster of the evolution of police uniforms.

And a couple of posters showing forensic firearm identification. Very cool.
I'm not sure who this guy is, but he hangs around in the front of the room. He's definitely the strong, silent type.

To give you an idea of what else is coming up, a few items on our agenda include making some traffic stops, 
a visit to the ME's office, a tour of the jail, and an evening in night court. Stay tuned!


Gina said...

Sounds like it will be really great, Annette. Take copious notes. Please.

Joyce said...

Sounds great!

My sisters live just up the road from PTI--right before you hit "downtown" Oakdale. You'd have a couple of places to bunk in case of a major snowstorm!

Annette said...

Gina, the problem with all the hands-on stuff is I'm too busy having fun to take a lot of notes! But I'm doing my best.

Joyce, that's really good to know. Gracie Garmin (the GPS) took me over every back road in two counties to get me there and home the first time. I knew I had to find a better route before snow flies. The second time, I didn't listen to dear Gracie and found a much better way in. But in case of a blizzard, I'll keep your sisters in mind!

Laurie said...

Sounds like you're both learning a lot and having fun! Thanks for the sharing the info with us.

Ramona said...

Annette, sounds like fun! I wonder if night court will be anything like the TV show?

After you ask the question about the chin strap, ask why PSP rookies smell like chocolate. I dare you. ;-)

Annette said...

Ramona, I promise I will get around to asking your question. FYI, ha ha. I know the answer to the chocolate riddle. Their training academy is in Hershey, PA!

Funny, I'm wondering the same thing about night court. Loved that show!

Don't be surprised if Trooper Mungo pops in here, by the way. I gave her the Working Stiffs URL.

Joyce said...

Annette, I forgot to tell you I bought a Garmin. We named her "Judy Garmin."

We drove up to Somerset a few weeks ago and she got really pissed when we went the way we usually go. I don't know where the heck she wanted to take us.

Annette said...


Gina said...

OH, NO, I feel a risque moment coming on. {I don't know what's the matter with me lately.] I feel a need to recount a supposedly true story I heard about the Pennsylvania State Police. Annette, maybe you can check whether or not it's true:

A woman was driving along at slightly above the speed limit when a state police car pulled her over. When the officer came to her window, she asked him whether he was there to sell her tickets to the policemen's ball. He told her, "Lady, state police don't have any balls." Then he got in his car and drove away. Wonder why?

Annette said...

Uh-uh. Sorry, Gina. Don't think I'll ask about that one!