When 28 freshly minted Des Moines police officers graduated from the City’s 79th Police Academy in mid-May, an equal number of veteran police officers seated nearby were glowing, inside and out. Those experienced officers, who volunteered to mentor academy candidates, watched with pride as DMPD badges were pinned for the first time above left pockets.
It was a proud day for the graduates and the mentors for another reason: For the first time in recent memory, 100% of the academy class graduated. Commonly, candidates leave the academy, some realizing police work isn’t for them, others who don’t meet DMPD standards.
Early in the 24-week academy, department leadership assigns an experienced officer to navigate a candidate through the rigors. Then, at weekly meetings, the pairs take a deeper dive into classwork, tune up for the physical standards, fill in the gaps in public-safety lingo, and answer personal questions about a successful career while balancing home and family responsibilities.
Senior Officer Lindsey Kenkel, an eight-year DMPD officer, was assigned to Andrea Brouwer, an educator for 18 years before applying to the academy. Lindsey became interested in a public safety career while working as a part-time emergency medical technician for the Johnston-Grimes Fire Department.
Police work, even in a small city, like Des Moines, can be complex. On one of Andrea’s first nights on patrol, she recalls, the pair handled the theft of a catalytic converter, a traffic stop, and burglary. “Lots of domestic calls in the first week,” she related. “And all different paperwork. And I’ve learned how to label a victim scenario when there wasn’t one clear example on the report form.”
Andrea impressed Lindsey with her organized learning. “Andrea put together study guides for her classmates—that’s the teacher in her,“ Lindsey says. “And she wasn’t too afraid to ask one of the instructors or me a question.”
Lindsey also recalls that Andrea didn’t want to fall behind on her physical standards after injuring a shoulder while at the academy. So they connected for some physical therapy.
“I appreciate all the time Lindsey spent with me,” Andrea says. “And she’s still putting up with me! Lindsey is so gracious about answering my questions—emails, texts, phone calls.”
Senior Officer Brian Foster, with 14 years in law enforcement, including three in Des Moines, was paired with Alan Kent, a 2019 naturalized citizen who immigrated from London, England, after marrying a Central College student he met during her semester abroad. Alan’s introduction to American policing included weapons training (“I had only shot a gun once or twice”), and legal issues such as domestic violence and no-contact orders. “Luckily,” he says, “the officers I’ve met are good at sharing procedures.”
Also, Alan took a lot of razzing about his English accent and slang. “We worked on saying ‘hood’ rather than ‘bonnet’,” Brian recalls with a chuckle. “Or a ‘parking lot’ rather than their ‘car park.’ He’s got the American lingo pretty well managed now.”
Over lunches in small mentor/candidate groups or just the two of them at Jethro’s Southside, Brian realized how well Alan eased into the ideal U.S. police model of connecting with individuals.
“What I noticed about Alan is the great way he talked with people,” Brian reports. “He has a very trusting demeanor when on duty. Another time, he picked up on a suspect’s deception—the person wasn’t forthcoming. Good skills.”
The graduating cadets are probationary police officers for the first year. In Phase 1, they spend 20 working days observing one officer. In Phase 2, the new officer takes control—with a veteran officer in “the shadow,” if necessary. If they pass muster after their probation, the newest officers are on their own—but the mentor connection can last throughout their careers.
RETURNING TO THE OFFICE: YOU CAN’T MAKE UP THIS STUFF
As we all know, businesses across the metro have begun rolling out plans for employees to return to the office. Here are a few interesting reactions or responses worth sharing. (Company names withheld.)
At one downtown insurance company, everyone is expected to be in the office three days during the week. One question brought forward to the CEO: “Will we get paid mileage for the days we are to be in the office?”
At a West Des Moines insurance company, the entire IT department decided they could just work from home. Responded the executive team: “Oh, good, we’ll just outsource IT and save some money.” The IT staff reconsidered.
For one locally owned bank, the lengthiest discussion about returning to the office revolved around men wearing ties. Ties prevail. For now.
At a downtown nonprofit, everyone is expected to return to the office and pre-COVID face-to-face community interaction. However, one employee signaled a preference to work from home. After a bit of probing, the employee revealed why: “I moved to Las Vegas in September.”
In one department of four, an individual staked a claim to the in-office days by announcing: “These are the days that work best for my child care schedule.”
IN SEARCH OF NEIGHBORHOOD CHAINSAW ART
Some of my bike friends served up an interesting challenge: Where can we see the best chainsaw art in our neighborhoods? Can you help map out locations for excellent front-yard sculptures created from tree trunks? I’ll collect your suggestions and publish a map. Somewhere in Beaverdale, there’s a giraffe . . .
DEFERRED EXPULSION: SHOWING STUDENTS SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Remember when you opened your first savings or checking account? Who could forget that prized passbook with handwritten entries we tucked safely away in desk or dresser drawers?
Savings passbooks are relics, but opening an account is still a big deal—especially if it’s connected with your first paying job. That’s the highlight takeaway of a conversation earlier this summer with Joseph and Bryan. The two 15-year-old high school students opened new accounts at local institutions because of their first paying summer jobs, through Good Vibes, a neighborhood nonprofit working with youth.
Joseph and Bryan participate in the Des Moines Public School (DMPS) deferred expulsion program, which began in 2015. They’re among 30 or so students identified with unsafe “Level 4 event” behavior—e.g. fighting, weapons, drugs—that lists them for potential expulsion.
“These are kids that no one wants to deal with.” says Negus Imhotep, Urban Dreams case manager. “Most are candidates for the school-to-prison pipeline. So we have a lot of societal issues to deal with.”
Expelling students without service support doesn’t serve the family or community, says Rich Blonigan, who oversees DMPS’ alternative programs. Deferred expulsion is about turning kids around, getting them back on track, and keep them in school. “We work with Urban Dreams to wrap services around the students and find a better situation for them to succeed,” Rich says, referring to the Des Moines nonprofit that became the community partner of the program in 2017.
“For the students, there’s a real positive vibe at Urban Dreams,” Rich adds. “We’re thankful we have partners that want to do this important work.”