Seniors Graduate Police Class


Seventy-five senior citizens were honored during a graduation ceremony this past summer for completing an eight-week program in law enforcement. Most of the graduates live in senior citizen housing in the Circle Park Residence at 1111 N. Ashland Ave., and the Amalgamated Senior Residence at 1504 W. Van Buren St. Many of these seniors speak little or no English.

Transportation was provided to get the graduates from the buildings to the ceremony, which was held in the Glasser Auditorium at Mount Sinai Hospital on the West Side. Friends and family members attended the ceremony in recognition of the graduates. Cook County Sheriff Michael F. Sheahan and Second District Cook County Commissioner Bobbie Steele were among the speakers honoring the graduates. Interpreter Carmen Perez translated the speeches for the Spanish-speaking graduates and their families.

After final remarks by Sheriff Sheahan, the graduates were called in pairs, sometimes husband and wife together, to receive their certificates. Those graduates who had perfect attendance were acknowledged. As the graduates posed displaying their certificates, each pair standing among the noted speakers had their photographs taken by a professional photographer.

They have since received their photos in the mail. A hearty lunch, provided by Sinai Health Systems, was served afterwards to the graduates and their guests. As lunch was being served, a dance group among the graduating class called the Harrison Park Senior Dancers went behind the scenes, changed into an array of colorful dance attire, and entertained everyone with two graceful Spanish dances.

A second helping of cake was given to everyone to take home and the ceremony was over. The eight-week program was inspired by the need for seniors to receive special teaching in awareness and in ways of protecting themselves and those they love from criminal activity. The once-weekly class was held at Mount Sinai to educate the seniors in ways they could be helpful in enforcing the law.

Some of the graduates said they learned how to be more aware of their surroundings. They also said they learned to be more conscious of license plate numbers when a car is involved in a crime, and to watch for direction of travel and the type of vehicle involved. Husband and wife Miles and Ruth Newman hardly speak any English at all. They were among the graduates having perfect attendance and were delighted to receive their certificates as they smiled all throughout the ceremony.

The Riveras, Jose, 71, and Elizabeth, 67, of the Amalgamated Senior Residence, were one of the husband and wife couples attending the course and graduating together. Speaking very little English, the couple said they were proud of what they learned. They said the class taught them and the other seniors how to protect themselves, how to look out for their neighbors, and how to be useful citizens in their community. One of the most interesting things they said they learned was about dogs that sniff out drugs.

These dogs, they said, are German Shepherds, specifically from Germany, and have a special nature for easy training. The price to buy the dogs, they said, was $4000, and $12,000 to train them. These dogs are trained only to sniff out drugs and that is their only job. The couple glowed with enthusiasm of learning about the dogs.

Not all of the graduates are from the senior citizen residences, though. Graduate Eleanor Brown, 79, lives on the 700 block of North Drake Avenue and is a second-time graduate of the law enforcement program sponsored by the Chicago Police Department through the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program. Each graduate receives a badge displaying a title of recognition. Brown earned the title of senior deputy, which her second badge reads.

The one-time graduates have badges that read junior deputy. Brown said the second course, of which she had perfect attendance, trained the class on how to read gang signals, how to detect con games, and how to be better witnesses to a crime. She said she has taken law enforcement courses before and that law enforcement is her life. She said she has even called the police on her own grandchildren when she had to.

Brown attended the classes with long-time friend the Rev. Lona B. Thompson, 73, who also lives on North Drake, and is also a senior deputy. Thompson also a graduate with perfect attendance, has been a member of the CAPS program a little bit longer than Brown, and was the person that introduced the program to Brown.
Thompson said she attends the classes because she wanted to learn more about how our law enforcement system works.

She said she also wanted to learn what rights we as citizens truly have. She said the class showed her how we are hiding our heads, knowing our children are doing crimes.
“We have lost our grip as parents and grandparents,” she said. “And if we don’t stand, we will fall.”

The class training is over but the senior citizens still receive pertinent information and advice about issues concerning them and their neighborhoods by attending monthly CAPS meetings. Some of the meetings are held in the senior citizen buildings and some at police stations in the areas.

The members receive telephone calls or letters reminding them of the date and time of the next meeting. Many of the seniors have been attending the meetings for years.
The CAPS program began over 20 years ago when Mayor Jane Byrne was in office as a senior citizen sub-committee, where senior citizens worked within the police department with the Emergency Identification Bracelet Program. Monthly meetings were held concerning matters regarding the senior citizen population, and the program grew into what it is today.

Officer Henry Perez is the elderly service officer of the 12th district. He presided over the eight-week program and supervises the monthly meetings. He said sometimes elderly people lose their skills in detecting criminal behavior and that maintaining this and programs like it is high on the list of priority for him and the Chicago Police Department. He said seniors are living longer today and it’s important to have these programs for them, concerning them.

Perez said his initial job is to aid the seniors and persons with disabilities in matters involving them in their community, whether it’s a concern as large as a drive by, or as small as people not picking up behind their dogs. He said he likes his job.
The seniors aren’t just mere pawns who attend the classes and meetings, and receive advice and help for their issues. They are participating members in the organization. Some even hold office and have jobs to do.

Ora Lee Carter, 75, of the Amalgamated Senior Residence is the chairperson of the twelfth district Senior Citizen Advisory Committee. Carter has been chairperson for six years. She said she enjoys going to the meetings and classes, and likes getting out and being around the people. Since she’s been chairing, she said U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7), Ald. Walter Burnett (27), and Illinois Secretary of State Jessie White have come to speak at the meetings.

There is also a committee of citizens called the Senior Tenant Patrol whose job is to check on senior citizens in the complexes and surrounding areas by knocking on their doors to make sure they are OK. Andre Bolling, 48, is not a senior citizen but lives in one of the buildings that also houses persons with disabilities. He said he attends the meetings and classes because he likes positive things in life. He’s been an active member for about three years.

Being in the CAPS program is not all work and no play. Sometimes the seniors get together and enjoy each other just for the fun of it, as they did on June 18. A picnic was held in the community lounge at the Amalgamated Senior Residence. The seniors from the Circle Park Residence were invited and they all ate hot dogs, ribs, and chicken with trimmings.

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