Friday, June 14, 2024

James City County Police Bring Back Citizens Police Academy After COVID Hiatus

An officer demonstrates weapon shooting and tactics at the James City County Police Citizen Police Academy. (James City County Police)

WILLIAMSBURG — James City County Police Department (JCCPD) brought back its Citizens Police Academy this April for the first time since the pandemic.

The Citizens Police Academy was launched in the U.S. in Orlando, Florida in 1985, and James City County held its first Citizens Police Academy in May of 1995. The program is designed to foster a better understanding between citizens and police through education and communications.

Alan McDowell and Jerry White, both retired JCC police officers, run the program for James City County.

“This program opens the doors to the citizens to show that we’re not some big monster that’s out here. We are your police department, you should know the inner workings of the law enforcement agency that represents you,” McDowell said.

The curriculum of the academy includes department philosophy, uniform patrol, communications, community services, school resource officer unit, SWAT, firearm safety, marine patrol, underwater search and recovery, RADAR, traffic stops, DUI procedures, animal control, crisis negotiations, investigations, polygraph, active shooter training, crime scene investigations and techniques, use of force, officer survival and peer support.

Explaining different police gear to citizens during a Citizen Police Academy. (James City County Police)

During a session, officers from different divisions talk about what they do, many bringing along props and tools and encouraging the class to ask tough questions.

“Our Citizen Police Academy students are put in a position where it’s comfortable to ask that tough question, we want you to ask that kind of stuff. This is an environment where we can break things down so our citizens understand the meaning of why we as police officers do things the way we do them,” McDowell said.

Students in the program also get a chance to visit the JCC Police Firing Range after a mandatory handgun safety class, try out the firearms training simulator, and explore different police vehicles and boats.

The academy meets on Wednesday nights at police headquarters from 7-9 p.m. and is free for JCC residents over the age of 18, however, space is limited. Participants cover two topics each evening and classes are taught by JCC Police Officers.

A CPA student performs a Field Sobriety Test with impairment glasses during the Citizen Police Academy. (James City County Police)

“This academy takes place in the house that you built for us. This building is paid for with tax dollars and we work for you. You should be able to come in and see it and understand what goes on here,” McDowell said.

At the end of the 12-week course, graduates can then sign up to become members of Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) and also enroll in the Citizen Forensic Academy. There is also an opportunity to participate in a ride-along during a normal shift with a JCC police officer.

“The police department wants to form these community relationships. We open the doors to the place that you built so that you can come in and see what we do. We are being as transparent about it as we can be. We’re not hiding stuff, it’s all about showing our citizens what we do and how we uphold the professional end of our careers,” McDowell said.

While the current class is closed to applicants, JCCPD aims to return to holding the program twice a year. More information on the program can be found online.

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