Aurora officers to train Nicaraguan police
By Erika Wurst firstname.lastname@example.org January 26, 2014 5:50PM
A Nicaraguan child holds a bag of food prepared by volunteers from Feed My Starving Children after the packages were distributed by Fox Valley missionaries in 2013. Volunteers from Christ Community Church in St. Charles traveled to the poverty-stricken region to bring supplies. | Submitted
Updated: February 28, 2014 6:19AM
Handcuffs and gun holsters. Night sticks and squad cars. Flashlights and transport vehicles.
These are police department essentials here in the United States, but in Nicaragua, the seemingly typical items are known as luxuries.
“Compared to what we’re accustomed to here, and all of the great things at our disposal, it is very different. Something as simple as a pair of handcuffs, they don’t have readily available,” said Aurora Police Sgt. Alfredo Dean, who will travel with members of Christ Community Church to the poverty-stricken town of Messiah in Nicaragua from Feb. 1 through Feb. 8.
Dean, and seven other missionaries, including fellow Aurora Police Investigator Alex Martyn and retired Sgt. Kevin Triplett, will spend a week in Nicaragua hosting a three-day training conference for Nicaraguan police officers.
This will be Dean’s second year participating in the program.
Along with their knowledge of law enforcement, Dean and the other volunteers will bring much-needed supplies to their Nicaraguan counterparts.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Dean said. “For me, you kind of sit back and realize the things you should be grateful for that others are fighting for on a daily basis.
These are things we don’t even think about. I’m fortunate to live in a town where I don’t have to worry if my backup (officer) is coming.”
In rural Nicaragua, officers are transported three or four at a time in the back of a pickup truck, and dropped off at their various posts. Should they need assistance, the nearest officer could be hours away, Dean said.
Prisoners are transported on the backs of motorcycles, sandwiched between two guards, and guns are kept in pockets instead of in holsters.
“I think, ‘How do you operate in that realm of living?’” Dean asked. “But they do the best with what they have.”
Next month, those officers will have a little more to work with, thanks to donated supplies Dean and his small crew will be bringing with them.
Christ Community Church member, Second Circuit Appellate Court Justice Robert Spence, will also be making the trip.
He said church members have traveled to Nicaragua in the past to provide training to teachers and complete construction projects, but several years ago he saw a need for law enforcement training opportunities.
“The officers there make maybe $200 a month,” he said. “They don’t have health insurance. They don’t have life insurance. If they get injured, their families are not going to make it.”
So, the group of missionaries will provide training in self-defense in hopes of adding an extra layer of protection from harm. Ethics and best practice issues are also addressed, all while helping spread the word of their church.
“At the end of the day, you realize that every law enforcement officer deals with similar issues,” Dean said. “They have a lot of similar concerns that we face. And, that is neat to see.”
But, there is a great disparity in the resources available to help combat these issues.
The jails are severely over- crowded, Spence said. In the men’s lock-up, there could be 175 inmates, and “if there’s three beds in there, I’d be surprised,” Spence said.
So, while they’re there, the volunteers spend time speaking to the inmates about God. They also travel the area and deliver food to the poor.
“For me, the whole experience is full-circle,” Dean said. “I just participated in a couple of Feed My Starving Children sessions in Aurora, and when we are there, we go to a rural area and hand out the packets.”
Dean said that the locals are beyond appreciative for the selfless help he and his team provide.
“It’s been an excellent opportunity for us to show our experience, and get things out there to people in need,” he said. “We also carry the message of the church with us, so we get that all done and wrapped up into one trip ... Last year was my first trip, and I am hooked.”
The trip costs about $1,750 per person, and with eight people making the trek, is rather costly. Donations are being accepted, and can be made online at https://cccgoteams.missionsconnex.com/NicPolice