At a time when police and citizen relations are under scrutiny across the nation, the Mount Airy Police Department is bridging the gap locally.
This includes plans for its 17th-annual Citizens Police Academy (CPA), which will allow members of the public to get a behind-the-scenes look at law enforcement functions.
The next edition of the Citizens Police Academy will get under way on Jan. 9, but interested persons can now sign up for the program that involves a series of classes on various facets of those operations.
“It has been an awesome program from its inception,” Capt. Alan Freeman said Monday of the academy, which has produced nearly 350 graduates since being launched.
“Our whole outlook is to protect and serve the community,” Police Chief Dale Watson said Monday.
“And when we build these relationships with the community through the Citizens Police Academy, it just serves that purpose.”
“I think this is needed more now with all law enforcement agencies to be transparent, to show what we do and how we do it,” Freeman added regarding efforts such as the CPA which engage the public.
The only way to accomplish that, he said of such outreach with citizens, is to “sit down with them” and explain each part of police work in detail.
This will be accomplished during the upcoming series of Monday night classes at the city police station on Rockford Street to be led by various members of the force. Each session is scheduled to run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the department’s training room.
• The first class on Jan. 9 will include welcoming remarks by Capt. Freeman and then an overview of communications and patrol operations.
• After not meeting on Jan. 16 because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the program will resume on Jan. 23 with a history discussion led by police Chaplain Gray Shelton and one on contemporary issues in law enforcement by Chief Watson.
• For Jan. 30, the topics include patrol techniques, traffic enforcement and a traffic stop demonstration.
• A community services overview and community policing will be highlighted on Feb. 6.
• On Feb. 13, crime prevention and the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program are to be explored along with the city school resource officer (SRO) program.
• Investigations will be the topic on Feb. 20, led by detectives at the department.
• On Feb. 27, students will learn about narcotics operations.
• The FATS (Firearms Training Simulator) is the subject of the March 6 class, to be led by Capt. Barry VanHoy.
• Police dog and Crisis Management Team (CMT) demonstrations will be featured during the March 13 session.
• On March 20, a mock court is planned.
March 27 is set aside as a makeup day, if needed.
A graduation ceremony for the 17th Citizens Police Academy will be held during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners next spring, with the date to be announced later.
At past graduation events, participants have received diplomas and special recognition for completing the program and been given the opportunity to comment about their experiences.
Citizens have remarked that their participation provided them with valuable insights that opened their eyes about law enforcement and increased their appreciation for what’s involved.
“All citizens need to take this course,” said 2015 graduate Jeff Hemric.
Each class usually contains around 25 students, and the slots tend to fill up quickly.
Those wanting to participate in the next Citizens Police Academy can pick up an application at the Mount Airy Police Department or call 786-3535 for further instructions.
Although the first class isn’t scheduled until Jan. 9, applying now allows the department sufficient time to complete the registration process.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a good response,” Freeman said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.