Applications open for civilian police academy

By DeeAnna Haney | Feb 08, 2012
Photo by: DeeAnna Haney Last year's Civilian Police Academy class gets an inside view of the dispatch area during a tour of the Waynesville Police Department.

An upcoming free series of classes aimed at educating the public about behind-the-scenes action in the Waynesville Police Department will kick off in March and will offer people an opportunity to volunteer within the department.

The six-week long civilian police academy will cover every topic including record keeping, canine patrol, search and seizure laws, juvenile and domestic laws, traffic stop procedures, the process of taking evidence and even how to shoot a gun.

Jim and Mary Ford, who moved here three years ago, knew right away they wanted to get involved in a local organization. When a large tree fell in their driveway shortly after they settled into their home and two police officers came to direct traffic around the tree, Jim was inspired to volunteer with the department.

“Directing traffic, anyone can do that job,” Jim said. “We wanted to help the department keep uniforms out on the street.”

But to volunteer for the police department, civilians must gain a strong understanding of how the department works and graduating from the civilian police academy is the most rewarding way to do it.

“You get a better understanding of what police here do,” said Mary Ford, who is also president alumni of the academy. “Most of the time people don’t even think about police until they make the 9-1-1 call. In a lot of ways (the academy) gives you more respect for what they do.”

Attendees of the academy can expect interactive and informative classes taught by the head of each department — no book work, no tests.

Hepsy Patrick, who first attended the academy in 2007, said she was scared of guns before she took the class and Lt. Brian Beck taught gun safety. The class ultimately went to the shooting range to test their skills.

“I was terrified but he was right there to help us all the way,” she said.

After graduating the class, attendees could have an opportunity to volunteer at the department helping with everything from office tasks to directing traffic and assisting at downtown events.

Becoming a volunteer is not mandatory, however, because the main purpose of the academy is to give people a better understanding of the police department.

“For the average citizen, it teaches you it’s not like CSI or just officers riding around in the car,” Mary said. “For business people, it gives you a one-on-one forum to talk to officers.”

Jim added, “If I was a business owner, I’d want to know the police officers in the community.”

The class will be held every Tuesday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. March 20 to April 24. Those interested must pick up an application and turn it in to Kristy Holcombe in the records office at the Waynesville Police Department no later than March 13. A background check is required and the class is limited to 25 people.