View Full Version : Citizens police academy slated for January

11-20-2007, 06:04 PM
Citizens police academy slated for January

Experience a cop's life in person

Citizens will be able to learn police techniques in the first Citizen Law Enforcement Academy.

NORTH PORT -- If you've harbored dreams since childhood of being a police officer, or simply want to find out more about what police officers go through in the course of their duties, then a new program from the North Port Police Department might be for you.

The first North Port Citizens Law Enforcement Academy will take place in January. And while this first foray will have a class of residents selected by Police Chief Terry Lewis "who will be aggressive in their critique -- we want people who aren't shy" as a field test for the program, the free class will eventually give any resident who wants one a first-hand look at how difficult being a police officer really is.

"The people are a mixture of the business community, regular homeowners and someone from the chamber of commerce," Lewis said. "We also want somebody from the religious community and builders. And given the age of our community and the importance of our youth, we're going to plug in a high school senior. We really want (to include) one."

Citizen law enforcement academies take place around the country and Lewis was involved in the program when he was at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. He wanted to bring the class to North Port because it has been so successful elsewhere.

"It got to a point in Sarasota where there was a waiting list to get into the class," he said. "If we do it right, it will be the same here."

Class includes hands-on training

Class topics will include an overview of the city of North Port and its police budget, criminal and civil law, court and jail services, vehicle pursuit operations and felony stops, criminal investigations and crime scene investigation techniques, cultural diversity and discriminatory based profiling, demonstrations from K-9 and Air-1 units and firearms and Taser orientation. Different officers will teach classes based on their areas of expertise.

"It's going to be a lot of hands-on training, everything cops go through part of as their training, plus a whole lot more," he said.

Role-playing will be part of the classroom activities.

"It will be intensive," Lewis said. "We want the educational part of the program -- and certainly there's a public relations part of it -- to bring an appreciation of what cops have to do on a daily basis. So we'll use role-playing. We'll tell them, 'you're the cop, and you have to sort through this domestic violence situation.'"

Firearms training will use computer-simulators to learn about discretionary shooting in real-life situations, but will also feature trips to the firing range.

"They'll get to fire all the weapons we have -- every automatic, every handgun and shotgun, including the AR-15 (the civilian equivalent of the AK-47)," he said. "We want to get them out of the classroom."

Lewis hopes to eventually offer the class twice a year and would like the classes to remain small, with about 15 people. Classes will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday nights, beginning on Jan. 3, 2008.

"At the end of 10 weeks, they will have a better understanding of the challenges we face," he said. "And we also learn things. Our people love it, seeing people interested."

Participants won't have to pay for the class. Lewis said the police budget will cover the cost of shirts, range fees and ammo, but the real cost to citizens in the class will be their time.

"Three hours once a week for 10 weeks is a lot of time," he said. "We realize we're taking people's valuable time away from their families and jobs, so we want to have it be something important."

Lewis said that was why he wanted to pick the first class members.

"We always intended to have media and business representatives and homeowners for a good representation of North Port," he said. "It's going to be a lot of fun. With the sheriff's office we took them to SWAT team demos and had them rappelling down the side of a building. We're still working out some of those nuances. But let's put it this way: the adrenaline rush will be high."

At the commission meeting Tuesday night, Lewis asked commissioners to nominate one of themselves to participate. Commissioner **** Lockhart immediately suggested Commissioner Vanessa Carusone be the commission designee.

"We already have a very energetic person," he said. "I nominate Vanessa, because she's going to be here for a while, and because of her youth and enthusiasm, fits perfectly with her capacity to be in this first class."

After Carusone said she would be willing to take part in the class, Attorney for the City Rob Robinson jokingly asked if he could be present when Carusone was Tasered.

"How about when she Tasers you?" Lewis countered to audience laughter.

You can e-mail Anne Klockenkemper at aklockenkemper@sun-herald.com.


Staff Writer