In September, the East Ridge Police Department held its first class for the newly-formed Citizens’ Police Academy. The idea behind the Academy was to find a way for officers to partner with citizens in a non-confrontational setting and develop better relationships in the community. The police department felt that people often are afraid of what they do not know or understand, so they wanted to bring the citizens in and show them what officers do each day and why they do it.
Class size was limited to only ten participants in an effort to maximize interactions. Participants met every Monday for ten weeks from 6 pm until 9 pm. Although there was concern that the three-hour classes were too long, the students were at a high participation level and most evenings the classes went longer than scheduled. At the end of the ten weeks, the graduates were lamenting the fact that the classes were over because they wanted to learn more.
The next Citizens’ Police Academy in East Ridge is set to begin on March 30. Although the class size has been expanded to fifteen participants, the class is already full with more on the waiting list. The department plans to offer two academies each year and requires that participants live or work within the city of East Ridge. If you are interested in learning more about the Citizens’ Police Academy, contact the East Ridge Police Department at 423-867-3718.
Officers conducting the classes stressed from the beginning that participants were not going to be trained as police officers and would not be equipped to handle police situations any better than an average citizen. Students were given overviews of the patrol division, warrants division, traffic division, CID (criminal investigation division), court services, and given tours of the 911 center and Hamilton County jail. Instructors did a lot of hands-on exercises to prevent boring the participants with too many power point presentations. While the hands-on elements were not mandatory, class members were given the opportunity to do simulated traffic stops, work mock crime scenes, go through scenarios on a firearms training simulator, and watch the K-9 unit perform.
“We are eager for our citizens to positively interact with our officers and have blended our ride-along program in with the Academy,” said Clint Uselton, Assistant Police Chief of East Ridge. “All citizens are eligible (pending a background check), to participate in a ride along with an officer once per quarter, but graduates of the Citizens’ Police Academy are encouraged to ride along twice per quarter.”
Uselton commented that one wonderfully unexpected benefit of the Academy was that some of the class members noticed that the interior of the police department was in need of new paint. He said the officers were grateful and appreciative that some of the Academy graduates took the initiative of acquiring paint – and even provided experienced manpower to patch and paint the entirety of the interior. All their hard work gave the offices a more professional and clean, attractive appearance at no cost to the city.
“Congratulations to our inaugural class of East Ridge Police Academy graduates who learned lots of information over the ten-week period,” said Brian Williams, Mayor of East Ridge. “We are very excited to offer this Academy to our citizens. The goal of our police department is to keep our community safe and this program provides our residents with an overview of the day-to-day operations of the police department, with hopes of providing increased understanding and communication between our residents and police.
“By building on their relationship with the community we serve, the department strives to make the City of East Ridge an even greater place to live, work, invest and raise a family,” he said.