Participants sought for second annual Police Academy

By Staff
Haley Aaron, Hartselle Enquirer
"To protect and serve." While most citizens have at least a basic idea of a police officer's duties, few ever have the chance to gain an in-depth look at the workings and policies of the police department.
That's not the case in Hartselle, however, thanks the police department's on-going Citizens Police Academy.
" The Academy is designed for the average citizen," Sergeant Randy Adams said. "This is their opportunity to come in and to receive a full explanation of how we carry out business and how we serve their interests."
Through participation in the academy, Adams hopes citizens will gain a better understanding of the police department and that the classes will dispel some of the "myths and misconceptions" that surround the profession.
"What Hollywood has shown you on the silver screen does not happen on the street," Adams sais. "In the movies every time the police get into a shootout with an armed bank robber, the police officer only fires one shot and it knocks down the robber."
In real life, encounters with criminals are never resolved as simply as films portray. "Human beings are a lot more resilient than that," Adams said.
Participants are allowed to fire weapons used by police and attend lectures on the topics of force and deadly force in order to gain a better understanding of events such as shootouts.
Starting Aug. 23, classes will take place each Thursday from 6-9 p.m. at the Hartselle Utilities Building. The program will last about 10 weeks, ending with a graduation ceremony Nov. 15. A range day will be scheduled for 9 a.m. – noon on a Saturday.
Classes will cover almost every area of the police department. They will combine lectures and hands-on experiences and simulations. "You just don't get to sit there the whole time," Adams said. "You get to see things, do things and participate, which creates a better learning environment."
Participants will be able to ask questions about the department in a positive, non-enforcement encounter.
"My own personal philosophy is that most often a person only interacts with the police under a negative context," Adams said. "Either they're getting pulled over, getting a ticket, or someone has stolen an article of property from them. What we're trying to do is reverse that. Rather than always dealing with the police in a negative aspect, here is an opportunity and an avenue to deal with us in a positive aspect."
This is the second year the program has been offered. The response to last year's program was mostly positive and the police department is making improvements to the program. "We learned a lot of lessons from the first one; we're going back and making some corrections and revisions for the second one, so hopefully we'll have a better one," he said.
Participants in last year's academy have started an alumni association. Members are able to serve as department volunteers and help with events such as Depot Days. After completing the Citizens Police Academy, alumni are also able to participate in other programs such as a ride-a-long program where they are paired with an officer on patrol. Participants who complete this year's academy are welcome to join the alumni association.
The Hartselle Police Department plans to offer the Citizens Police Academy program each year, but the program's continuation relies on citizen interest and participation.
"We have received some interest, but very, very little," Adams said. He hopes that public interest in the program will grow substantially.
"In fact, we would like to have to start turning people away," he said.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2007 Academy.
Citizens age 21 or older who pass a preliminary background screening are eligible to participate. While there is no charge to participate, the class is limited to 15 and spaces are filled on a "first come, first serve" basis. Applications are available on the police department's website, www.hartsellepolice.com. For more information, contact Sergeant Adams at (256) 751-4919.

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