By Sarah Plummer
The Beckley Police Department is accepting applications for the 2013 Citizen’s Police Academy.
According to Lt. J.R. Corey, training coordinator with the department, this 10-session fun and educational experience aims to foster better communication between citizens and Beckley Police.
Each session, held once a week, teaches a different aspect or activity connected to the police department.
Corey said the sessions offer first-hand knowledge of police units, services and front line experiences.
Demonstrations include criminal justice facility tours, ride-along programs and hands-on training with a use of force simulator.
Charlie Houck, City National Bank executive vice president for commercial banking in Beckley, said the experience was an adrenaline rush throughout the 10-week sessions.
“You feel so accepted by the police force and feel like an important part of what is going on,” he explained. “When you are finished, you have a real feel for what they are doing and want to help them make things better in the community.”
Margaret O’Neal, executive director of the United Way of Southern West Virginia, said her participation in the 2012 Citizen’s Police Academy was “the best thing I ever did.”
“I gained an appreciation for what police do and how truly dangerous their jobs are every day,” she shared. “Even traffic stops and minor infringements like speeding can be a critical situation for them. The class was a huge reminder of the respect we should have for law enforcement.”
Both O’Neal and Houck shared how memorable the use of force simulator was.
Houck explained that in the simulator, members of the citizen’s academy had to make split-second decisions in different scenarios while lives hung in the balance.
During his experience, Houck recalled seeing more than 600 inmates crowded into Southern Regional Jail, a 400-person occupancy jail, and the shock of discovering more than 80 percent of domestic violence victims don’t follow through after filing a petition.
“The night we talked about drug abuse really registered with me. It made me want to do something to help address the issue,” he shared.
Citizens enrolled in the academy will also learn about drug investigation, use of force, evidence collection, criminal investigations, police ethics, criminal law and motor vehicle law.
Corey explained that the Citizen’s Police Academy is not a “training” class, but is an exciting “information” class, a behind-the-scenes look at the Beckley Police Department.
He said the premise behind the academy is that informed and educated citizens will be more supportive of police officers and the department and will be more productive within their own neighborhoods and communities.
The Citizen’s Police Academy starts March 18 and will meet once a week for 10 weeks.
The class size is limited to 20 students.
Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis for Beckley residents, merchants, students and employees working within the city who are 18 years of age or older.
A background check will be conducted on all accepted applicants.
An application can be downloaded online at www.beckley.org, Police Department, 2013 Citizen’s Police Academy or from the Beckley Police Department Records Division.
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