In a Tuesday evening ceremony, the Asheville Police Department recognized 32 people who completed its Citizens Police Academy. The program, offered twice a year, takes participants through in-depth tours and descriptions of the inner workings of the Asheville Police Department to give them a better understanding of law enforcement and build relationships with APD officers.
“The primary thing we are trying to do is build a bridge of communication with the community,” said Crime Prevention Officer Allen Dunlap.
Three-hour classes over 13 weeks covered all aspects of law enforcement including evidence, forensics, constitutional law, patrol, criminal investigation and gang investigations, giving the participants a more intimate knowledge of the skills and risk it takes to protect and serve.
“It’s a big commitment. It always impresses me when you have the kind of interest to delve into this,” APD Chief William Hogan said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “I hope you have established some lines of communication, and that with communication comes trust.”
For participant Allen Brailsford, recently appointed to the city’s Police Advisory Committee, the experience was an eye opener.
“I can tell you we learned much more that I thought there would be,” Brailsford said. “I have a much greater appreciation for the police department after going through the program.”
Along with the regular classes, participants were invited to ride along with APD officers on a patrol and to learn to fire police issued weapons at the department’s firing range.
“The first time I went to a class, I was hooked. I was in awe,” participant Toni Hicks said. “I will recommend this to people. It’s a great program.”
Several of the graduates are also participants in a program called “Getting Back to the Basics,” which was founded by APD Sgt. Quentin Miller. Getting Back to the Basics provides year-round support and services to families with children ages 11-21 who are socially or economically disenfranchised from the Asheville metropolitan community. Volunteers and families involved with the program arranged and served the meal at the Citizens Police Academy graduation.
Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy called all of the graduates “ambassadors of the police department,” and appealed to them to relay to the community the knowledge they have gained.
“Now you can go out and communicate to the community the reality of the police department and what we are doing to serve them as a city,” Bellamy said.
The Asheville Police Department hosts a Citizens Police Academy twice a year, as well as a Junior Citizens Police Academy in the summer. Participants must apply and be accepted in order to participate. For more information about these programs, contact Officer Dunlap at 259-5834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.