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Christopher Anderson⁄The GazetteCounty Police Chief Melvin High welcomes the first class of the Citizen’s Police Academy in Capitol Heights on Monday. The weekly classes give residents insight on the workings of the police department and prepare them to volunteer.
Many were volunteers at local police district stations. Some were active in their community associations. But the one thing they all had in common was a desire to learn what police officers do.
The Citizens Police Academy is a 14-week training program that gives citizens the opportunity to learn from the same police officers that teach actual police academy recruits.
Prince George’s County Chief of Police Melvin High was on hand to give an introductory speech to the class.
‘‘Just the fact that you’re here shows that you are intensely interested in your community,” said High.
‘‘Civic responsibility has a cost, but believe that any community will be as safe as its citizens want it to be. We want you to feel like this is your police department. We share your vision of a safer community. So pay attention to the activities that police officers engage in. You have the liberty to tell us how we can do it better,” said High.
During the course, citizens will be trained in a variety of different areas including judgement enhancement training (formerly entitled shoot-no shoot), traffic stops and DWI enforcement, less lethal force options, internal investigations, neighborhood watch programs, crisis intervention, mediation techniques, and evidence procedures.
‘‘A lot of people are so misinformed about the police, so I think it’s important that we really understand, so that we can go back and explain it to the people in our community,” said Elsie Jacobs, president of the Suitland Civic Association.
Claudia Poole of Camp Springs is taking the class to learn how to start a neighborhood watch.
‘‘There are many things in my community that need to be done, and if you need something done, you need to start trying to do it yourself.
I also want to make sure that young people in the community know some of the things that they should or should not do and what they can do to help us keep our community organized and safe,” said Poole, who serves as the vice chairwoman of the Clinton Citizens Advisory Council.
Major Everett Sesker, who heads the program, said the program is very different from the regular police academy because of the absence of physical training.
‘‘But what you do get is a lot of insight into what we have to deal with. You go through many of the same programs we go through, such as the shoot-no shoot program. But when we go through it, it’s followed by a critical critique For the citizens, we hope it’s a more fun experience,” said Sesker.
Also leading the introductory session was Lt. Dean Jones, who serves as the commander of the career development session, and encouraged the students to make suggestions about which programs they liked and which one’s they did not to help keep the class fun and enjoyable, as well as to maximize the learning experience. At the conclusion of the course, the participants have a graduation ceremony, and are encouraged to become active participants in their local police districts. The program is in its 15th year, and is held one to two times per year, depending on interest. The course can accommodate 20 students per session.
‘‘As police officers, we always come to the aid of people when they’re in need of something, or there’s a crisis in their life. But it’s something special when you can come to the aid of people and help them enrich their lives when it’s not a crisis. I get a lot of satisfaction out of teaching this class,” said Sesker.
E-mail Carla Peay at firstname.lastname@example.org