By Sue Moore
Who knew that Kalamazoo County citizens could ride along with deputies while in their cars patrolling? Or that, while taking a course at the Citizens Police Academy, a student could work in the jail, be trained in forensics and crime lab work?
They’re possible if a person is enrolled in an 11-week course at the Sheriff’s Department under the tutelage of Lt. Jeff Baker, who heads the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division. He started the course three years ago and was recently recognized as Coordinator of the Year for the National Citizen’s Police Academy in 2019 for his work in Kalamazoo County.
Vicksburg resident Krista Manley just finished the course and highly recommends that others should take it. “I was reintroduced to Jeff Baker recently when I saw an ad on Facebook regarding the 2019 Citizens Police Academy. I had reached out to show my interest in applying to the academy and was put on a waiting list until this year when my time finally came up in September. I have been attending the Citizens Police Academy since then and graduated on 11/13/19. I knew of Jeff when I went to school in Vicksburg as I’m a long time resident,” she said in an email.
“I am beyond proud of all the time and effort that Jeff has put into developing this program for the citizens of Kalamazoo County,” she wrote. “I know that his work has been recognized across the U.S. This program has taught me so much about behind the scenes of the Academy. I have been exposed to so much that this has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of what our officers do, go through, etc. I feel that everyone should go through this, especially those who may have negative views of police officers.”
“It would mean so much to me if Jeff could be recognized for all of his efforts with this program and allowing the citizens of Kalamazoo County to benefit from this outstanding program. During my time at the Academy I have been given so many opportunities – to observe dispatch, work the Jail, complete a drive-along, participate in a simulation and many various lectures on topics of interest. I would have never been exposed to this if it hadn’t been for him having this idea and vision and putting it into place,” she said.
Baker graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1986. He graduated from Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s criminal justice program and got his first job in public safety as a police officer in Vicksburg in 1989. He joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1995 as a patrol deputy. Since then he was promoted to the rank of detective sergeant where he received specialized training in work involving computer and cell phone forensics, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 2016. He supervises the agency’s eight detectives.
The next Citizen’s Police Academy begins January 15. Lt Baker has announced that it is full but there is a waiting list in case of an opening, or for the next class which will begin in September. The class consistently fills up quickly and the early applications are encouraged. If interested, Lt Baker can be contacted at email@example.com. Applications are available at the Sheriff’s Office website at https://www.kalcounty.com/sheriff/specialprogram.php?tag=Citizens+Academy.