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February 18, 2009 > Citizen Police Academy gears up

Citizen Police Academy gears up

By Amisha Gandhi
Photos By Courtesy of Terri Hernandez

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a police officer, even for a day, protecting your community and maintaining law and order? The Newark Police Department's Citizen Police Academy allows you that very opportunity. The seven week academy gives citizens a "behind the scenes" look at the Department's structure and organization. The curriculum has been modeled after training practices at traditional police academies. However, the idea of this program is not to train participants as future law enforcers but rather to increase cooperation between civilians and police officers. Increased cooperation and understanding can lead to a reduction of problems that police officers face while making the community a happier and safer place for all.

This year marks the tenth Citizen Police Academy for the Newark Police Department since the inception of the program in 2000. "One of the most important aspects of a community is the increased awareness of the importance of an effective police-community partnership that includes open and honest communication," says James Leal, Chief of Police. The program was founded for the purpose of bridging the gap between civilians and police and to encourage friendly relations between them. During the Academy, participants will be exposed to every aspect of the Newark Police Department and will learn about laws, procedures, and policies for law enforcement. Department members will also have the opportunity to receive feedback and ideas from participants to create a more effective police force.

Academy classes are taught by police employees, including patrol officers and detectives. Participants have the opportunity to meet the Chief of Police and other staff members. Topics covered during training include police selection, patrol organization, traffic enforcement, communications and 911 dispatch, gangs, narcotics, internal affair crimes, domestic violence, K-9 and department tour. Additionally, academy participants will be given the chance to accompany a police officer on a shift in a patrol vehicle.

Participants are selected by the Chief of Police through a nomination/application process. The names of selected candidates are placed on an eligibility list. It is advised that one should enroll early as enrollment is limited to 20 students per academy. To be eligible for the program, participants must be at least 21 and live in the city of Newark. The participant must also have no prior felony convictions or any misdemeanor arrests within one year of application.
The Citizen Police Academy Program will last seven weeks, meeting on Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. starting February 25 at the Silliman Activity Center, 6800 Mowry Ave.

Past years have been highly successful and enjoyable for participants such as Veronica & Herb Brocklesby, a couple who completed the academy training last year. The increased understanding between the police and civilians has created a much friendlier and relaxed community. "By participating in this program," says Terri Hernandez, of the Newark Police Department, "you begin to feel a level of comfort around the police. It feels like a more close-knit and protected community."

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