A central theme of Celebrate Safe Communities is to encourage local people to work together with local law enforcement to address local problems. An important step in that process is to learn more about the day to day work of your law enforcement agency. One way to gain a better understanding of your law enforcement agency and build relationships with local officers is to attend a Citizen Police Academy.
Citizen Academies are offered by both police departments and sheriff’s offices. They range in length from a week to several months and cover the entire spectrum of law enforcement work. Themes and topics vary by agency, but many courses feature hands-on activities like trying on SWAT gear, meeting dogs from K-9 units, dusting for fingerprints, and much more. Aside from learning the ins and outs of this exciting field, participants also learn important lessons about how to keep their families safe through simple crime prevention strategies.
Some law enforcement agencies offer citizen academies targeted to specific community groups. There are Teen Police Academies and Senior Police Academies that are tailored to each age group’s interests and concerns. There are also Citizen Academies for Hispanic, Hmong, and other immigrant groups that offer language interpretation and culturally specific public safety information.
Above all, Citizen Academies teach participants about public safety issues in their communities, what law enforcement is doing to solve those issues, and how community members can help. There are many ways to continue supporting your police department or sheriff’s office after completing a Citizen Academy course. Ongoing volunteer activities may include Neighborhood Watch, Citizen Police Academy Alumni Associations, and Volunteers in Police Service Programs.
You can learn more about Citizen Police Academies and other law enforcement volunteer opportunities on the Volunteers in Police Service website – www.policevolunteers.org.