The Mount Airy Police Department is on the hunt for about 30 people — not to arrest, but as students for its upcoming Citizens Police Academy.
Applications are being taken for the next edition of the program that provides the public a behind-the-scenes look at all facets of local law enforcement operations, which will begin in early January.
“We’ve already got eight or nine signed up,” Capt. Alan Freeman said regarding applications received as of Wednesday afternoon. Each Citizens Police Academy class is limited to 25 to 30 participants.
As the free program readies for its 18th year, about 375 graduates have been included so far — 18-or-older residents who live in or near the city limits and represent all walks of life.
The 2018 Citizens Police Academy will run on successive Monday evenings beginning on Jan. 8 and continuing to March 19, with a makeup day, if needed, set for March 26. One exception to that schedule involves no class being held on Jan. 15, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Each is to begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m., with all classes planned in the Mount Airy Police Department Training Room. Casual dress is appropriate for Citizens Police Academy participants, with parking available in the nearby library lot.
The program is offering a new group of students the opportunity to go inside the department and “see how we do things,” said Freeman, one of its veteran members.
All facets of city police operations, involving officers who are part of each, will be addressed during the series of classes.
• Welcoming remarks by Capt. Freeman will launch the first on Jan. 8, which also will explore the topics of police communications and patrol operations.
• The Jan. 22 session will include a history of the department by Chaplain Gray Shelton, a retired officer, and the topic of “Contemporary Issues in Law Enforcement,” led by Chief Dale Watson.
• Patrol techniques, traffic enforcement and a traffic stop demonstration are on tap for the Jan. 29 class meeting.
• On Feb. 5, Capt. Freeman will provide an overview of community services and Sgt. Stacy Inman is to address the role of community policing.
• Crime prevention/DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and the school resource officer program are the topics for the Feb. 12 session, to be led by Community Police Officer Gerald Daniel and SRO James Simmons, respectively.
• Investigations will be explored on Feb. 19 by members of the city detective unit, Lt. Paul Barker, Sgt. Brad Quesinberry and Detective Brandon Davis.
• Narcotics is the subject for the Feb. 26 class meeting.
• The police firearms training simulator (FATS) will take center stage for the March 5 meeting, led by Capt. Barry VanHoy.
• K-9 and CMT (crisis management team) operations are to be explored on March 12.
• A mock court session is planned for the March 19 class meeting.
Those completing the Citizens Police Academy will be recognized at a graduation ceremony next spring during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
While the same basic subject matter is covered during the CPA program each year, Freeman said material is updated as needed.
“The narcotics class may touch on some of the new stuff we see coming in to the city and things like that,” he said, along with recent crime statistics and other timely information relating to session topics.
“We’ll also talk about some of our new programs like our Second Chance program,” Freeman said of an initiative targeting youthful offenders.
Bridging the gap
Freeman says the continuing popularity of the Citizens Police Academy is reflective of a growing partnership between the Mount Airy Police Department and residents.
“I think we’ve established a good relationship with the community,” he said, which the Citizens Police Academy has played a big role in perpetuating.
“It’s the best thing the police department has done to engage the community, and for transparency.”
Freeman said applications should be turned in by Jan. 2 for the 2018 Citizens Police Academy.
“We welcome anyone who wants to go through it,” he said.
Those desiring to participate can pick up applications at the police station or call 786-3535 for further instructions.
“I’m hoping we’ll have the same success this coming year as we’ve had in past years,” Freeman said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.