Palm Springs Citizen’s Police Academy – Third Week 

October 10th, 2007
The third week of our 3 hour Tuesday evening academy session was devoted to “Special Units and Equipment”. Patrol Sergeant and academy director Mark Stafford started us off by introducing Citizens on Patrol (COP) member Taylor Cushmore. He briefly described the functions of the 22 member all volunteer unit.  They work in pairs and their job is to relieve officers from mundane tasks, do street patrols and report problems, and, if needed, direct traffic. Members make a 12 hour minimum monthly time commitment and become active members of the unit following a background check, a 6 to 8 hour class, followed by 6 months working with an experienced member. They aren’t sworn officers and carry no weapons nor do they wear protective vests. The majority of the members are women and the unit is hopeful each academy class will produce a crop of interested graduates – including more men.

Patrol Officer and assistant academy coordinator Mark Melanson served as our instructor for the Mounted Patrol unit. The unit is an outgrowth of a group of volunteers formally integrated into the department in 1995. As a volunteer unit, each member paid all costs for the upkeep of his horse and equipment. Those costs are currently paid from donations and fundraising efforts by department personnel. The mounted unit is primarily urban and it’s mission is crime suppression and crowd control. We drove over to the horse stables on Civic Drive and Alejo for a walking tour of the premises. We met Officer Melanson’s horse, “Jack Daniels”, a 21 year old quarter horse. He’s one of five geldings and, like the others, has the preferred solid color coat. Afterwards we toured the stable area and inspected saddles, riot helmets, and uniforms. Unit officers are responsible for the care of their assigned horses and equipment. Since Mounted Patrol is a collateral unit, officers are recalled to patrol unit duty whenever there is a need.

We returned to the classroom and found Downtown Experience Officer Denise Judd waiting for us. She is a member of the Bicycle Team patrol, operating on evening and night shifts, that is responsible for downtown and neighborhood enforcement duties. They ride Trek mountain-style bicycles with a battery pack and a gear bag mounted over the rear wheel. Officers wear reflective shirts intended to make them more visible to nighttime traffic.

The final portion of the evening was handled by Motor Officer Melissa Desmarais. She’s been a motorcycle officer for almost 4 years and the main job for members of the unit is traffic control and issuing citations. The unit currently has three motorcycles and they work day shifts. They respond to fatal accidents and major collisions and last year handled 90,000 service calls. Afterwards the class moved outside for an inspection of Officer Desmarais’s motorcycle and its equipment. Officer Desmarais is noted for her exceptional motorcycle handling skills and is considered an expert in her field. She also writes more vehicle citations than any of her peers.

Enrollment in the Academy is open to all who are at least 18 years old and without felony convictions. More information and a class application form may be found at the Palm Springs Police Department’s website.

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