|By Michelle Kealey|
WESTFIELD The Westfield Police Department and its Community Policing Unit are offering local residents a chance to get a taste of how officers are trained and what their daily jobs entail during the sixth and seventh Citizen Police Academy classes to begin in October and March.
Steve Dickinson, a sergeant for the Westfield Police Department, who is overseeing the Academy, explained that the Police Department created a Citizens Police Academy years ago and hosted five sessions, but it was laid aside for a couple years.
Now, we are bringing it back to life, he said. We are bringing it back because we want to go back to the grassroots of community policing and getting citizens involved with the community police officers.
He added that the Academy offers a glimpse of how we operate and how we are trained.
The Citizens Police Academy is a 10-week mini-police academy, according to Dickinson.
The participants will receive an overview of criminal justice, the detective bureau, crime management and other departments.
Dickinson said that there will be time spent in the classroom, but for the most part, it will be a hands-on experience for the participants.
There will be simulated motor-vehicle stops, participants will take each others fingerprints after mock crime scenes and they will learn about firearm safety. They will also have the opportunity to test fire the weapons used by police officers, according to Dickinson.
One of the goals of the Academy is to familiarize the residents with the Police Department in hopes that they may go back into the community to volunteer with the Police Department or work on other projects, he said.
We are always looking for outsiders to help, Dickinson said. And, the Citizens Police Academy is a way to get people to help the Police Department and the community.
He explained that much of the work the police officers do comes from information handed to them by citizens.
They make the call to us, he said, whether it be for a barking dog, drugs or another crime.
We are out there in the neighborhood trying to make the community better and we cant do that on our own, Dickinson said. We need people to say this is how the neighborhood works.
He added that volunteers are needed to help the Police Department with some events, such as the National Night Out.
Richard Gaudrea, a resident of Westfield who took part in the program a few years ago, said he decided to participate because I was curious. I wanted to have a better understanding about how our police department worked the workings inside and out on what they do on a daily basis.
He added that there are different departments within the Police Department and he wanted to feel more in tune to the community he lived in.
He explained that he learned a variety of new things about the Police Department such as what they encounter during traffic stops.
It is interesting to get a different perspective from the police officers eyes into what they anticipate may or may not happen, Gaudrea said.
He said that if anyone ever wanted to learn what it is like to be a police officer and if anyone is at all interested in knowing what goes in the community how their own personal police department reacts to things the training helps get a better feel for how in-tuned the police department is to what is going on around the world to help keep us safe.
He added that for many people, the work that police departments do seem like a big black hole.
I enjoyed it immensely, Gaudrea said, adding that it is worth while for anyone interested to investigate and inquire about the program.
Gary Wolf, a citizen who participated in the program in 2001, said that he was looking to become more involved in the community and learn more about the Police Department when he signed up for the program.
I did not know what to expect, he said. After, I really felt I learned a lot about the role of community policing and what they do for the community.
He explained that he learned a lot about community policing and how the officers try to have a proactive rather than a reactive approach.
A lot of people think police are driving around and going to the doughnut shop, he said, adding that the program gives a lot of good insight of what officers have to deal with on a daily basis.
I always have respect for police and the jobs they do, but you get a good feeling [from the program] as to what theyre doing, Wolf said. I recommend for anyone to try it.
He said that his class included a diverse group of people from the community, including some young high school aged residents looking into police work as a career.
In hindsight, if I had taken the course earlier, maybe I would have gone in the direction of doing police work, he said.
Both Gaudrea and Wolf have gone back to volunteer for the police department within the community at events such as the National Night Out.
The Citizens Police Academy will take place Oct. 3 through Nov. 28 and March 6, 2006 through May 1, 2006. The classes meet on Monday evenings from 6-8 p.m.
The class schedule and topics for the Sixth Citizens Police Academy are as follows:
Oct. 3 Welcome and introduction. History of the Westfield Police Department. Emergency Communications and Police Department tour
Oct. 10 Criminal Law and the Justice System
Oct. 17 Financial Crime and Fraud
Oct. 24 Patrol Procedures
Oct. 31 Use of Force
Nov. 4 (Sat. 7:30 a.m.) Pre-shoot safety class. Firing range at 8:30 a.m. Lunch break (Family Pizza). At 1:30 p.m. K-9 and SRT program
Nov. 7 Community Policing and SRO programs
Nov. 14 First Aid and CPR
Nov. 21 Drug Identification
Nov. 28 Closing Ceremony and Graduation Dinner
The class schedule and topics for the Seventh Citizens Police Academy are as follows:
March 6 Welcome and introduction. History of the Westfield Police Department. Emergency Communications and Police Department tour
March 13 Criminal Law and the Justice System
March 20 Financial Crime and Fraud
March 27 Patrol Procedures
April 3 Use of Force
April 8 (Sat. 7:30 a.m.) Pre-shoot safety class. Firing range at 8:30 a.m. Lunch break (Family Pizza). At 1:30 p.m. K-9 and SRT program
April 10 Community Policing and SRO programs
April 17 First Aid and CPR
April 24 Drug Identification
May 1 Closing Ceremony and Graduation Dinner
All applicants to the program have to be 21 or older and have to be able to pass a background check.
The classroom can fit up to 15 people and the program accepts participants on a first-come, first-served basis.
Applications to the program are located in the lobby of the Westfield Police Department Residents are asked to visit the department to fill out an application, or take one home to fill out and mail back to the police department, which is located on Washington Street.
Any interested participants with questions about the program can call Sgt. Steve Dickinson at (413) 454-2510.