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Aurora Police Department donates retired vehicle to training program

The Aurora Police Department has donated a retired patrol vehicle to the Indian Valley Vocational Center’s law enforcement program, officials announced on Monday.

This marks the first retired vehicle the Aurora Police Department has donated to an outside training program, according to city of Aurora Director of Public Facilities Derrick Winston.

Indian Valley Vocational Center instructor Jim Kerry, a retired Aurora police officer, said he will use the 2015 Ford Explorer to give students interested in law enforcement a chance to learn patrol vehicle controls, simulate traffic stops and more.

“This donation from the Aurora Police Department will be an incredible learning tool for our students,” Kerry said in a news release from the city of Aurora. “There is no substitute for hands-on experience with the actual tools and equipment they will be using as law enforcement professionals.”

The Indian Valley Vocational Center in Sandwich accepts high school juniors and seniors from 10 local school districts who are interested in preparing for their career or trade instead of taking traditional high school classes.

According to Jon Zaghloul, the city of Aurora’s communications manager, the center is “actively helping to establish the next generation of law enforcement professionals, and the Aurora Police Department is proud to support their efforts.”

The center’s law enforcement program now has two vehicles, according to Kerry. He said the other vehicle might be old and “on its last leg,” but the program will be able to expand its curriculum to include simulated high-risk and felony traffic stops by using both cars.

Kerry’s connection to the Aurora Police Department has helped the program in more ways than one. He has started taking students on day trips to the department to show them its various divisions and modern gear, he said.

“That’s a nice tour for them because a lot of the smaller departments that are out our way don’t have the tools that Aurora has,” he said.

While the two-year program at Indian Valley Vocational Center does not allow students to become police officers upon graduation, it does give them a look into being a police officer to see if the career is right for them, according to Kerry.

He said the course teaches students about the criminal justice system, defensive tactics, handcuffing, room clearing, handing calls, de-escalation and more. However, it is taught at a basic level, Kerry said.

If these students are interested in becoming police officers, they would still need to attend a state police academy once they turn 21, he said.

In the meantime, those interested in becoming police officers in Aurora can sign up for the police department’s cadet program. Kerry said he does his best to prepare his students for the program’s entry test.

“It’s an excellent program,” Kerry said. “They turn into good police officers.”

rsmith@chicagotribune.com