Chief, mayor address police academy students

Chief Christopher Yates diagrams the Danville Police Department during the first meeting of the Citizens Police Academy at the Public Safety Building Thursday night.

DANVILLE — It's evident from the way the Danville Chief of Police talks — he loves police work.

It was obvious Thursday night during the first class of the Citizens Police Academy at the Public Safety Building.

Chief Christopher Yates began his portion of the evening by introducing himself and giving his background.

"I never once thought about being police chief," Yates said. "Never. Not until this opening came up."

Yates was one of the first speakers for the class organized by Officer Danielle Lewallen.

The class will meet seven more times over the coming weeks to discuss topics such as patrols/traffic enforcement, criminal investigation, CSI, SWAT, gang awareness and others.

Lewallen said she was happy with the first class, and that "the goal for the academy this year was to get 20 approved participants and we met that goal and had a great turnout for week one."

Applicants are attending for free, but had to apply, go through a background check and sign a waiver.

The waiver was particularly important as the students will be going for a ride-along with Danville police officers while on duty.

Yates followed Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr., who addressed the different departments of city government and took questions from the students on everything from how soon the casino was likely to happen and what that will mean to the police force, as well as several fallacious rumors surrounding Carle's new project on Logan.

"No one wants (the casino) here more than I do," Williams said. "But with Illinois, it's hurry up and wait."

He also explained how the state has until Sept. 30 to give its approval.

"Anyone who says we don't have problems with crime is lying to you," Williams said. "Anyone who says we're as dangerous as St. Louis or Chicago ... we have to deal in reality.

"We're in a community where the good outweighs the bad by a whole lot. We have to be our own best ambassadors. Yes, we address the bad things, but we embrace the good."

Williams spoke for about a half hour.

Yates also took questions from the students, explained the tools on his duty uniform, outlined the staffing of the department and talked a lot of crime statistics and how the police department communicates and recruits within the community.

He also said there have been 10 new officers hired since last April. Wednesday's swearing-in of probationary police Officer Dustin Campbell brought the department up to full force.

"There have been more officers on the streets in the last six months than in the last three years," he said.

Students took turns giving their names, where they were from, and why they wanted to take the class. For one student, it was a step toward his own dream of becoming a Danville police officer.

"It was actually a great class," Jesse Worthington said afterward. "We learned a lot on Day 1; it was an eye-opening class."

Worthington said since he grew up in Danville, he wanted to be the person to impart change in the community.

The class not only gave him a look at how the city and department works, but provided several contacts to attain his goal.

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