Civilian Police Academy starts in April

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 09, 2013
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 will give regular citizens a behind-the-scenes look at the Waynesville Police Department and a chance to volunteer within the department.

The eight-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.

During last Spring’s session, participants learned how to dust for fingerprints and got an up-close look at how drug dogs are used within the department.

The class began in the late 90s under Police Chief Frank Ross in an effort to educate the public about the goings-on in the police department.

When Jim and Mary Ford moved to Waynesville four years ago, they knew they wanted to become active in a meaningful organization. After police officers came to help direct traffic around a large tree that fell near their home one day, they were inspired to volunteer with the department.

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

But in order 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.

Lee Starnes, a local retired insurance agent, completed the course several sessions ago and is now proud to volunteer for the department, mostly helping direct traffic at parades and other downtown events.

But the class is so much more than just something to get through in order to volunteer, he said.

“You learn so much more about the community and how the police department is doing their best to service the needs of the community. It is a great thing to do and it is more interesting than you can imagine,” Starnes said.

One session focuses on crime scene investigation as it's really done, taught by full time detectives at the department.

"It teaches you that it's not like it is on CSI," Mary Ford said.

The class is also useful for those who wish to learn the basics of gun safety and shooting a gun, a portion of the class which is taught by Lt. Brian Beck. After that session, participants are taken to the range to test out their skills.

The real point of the class is to give people a better understanding of what police officers do. Mary Ford said it's the most effective way to build a bridge between the community and law enforcement.

“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,” said Mary Ford, who is also president alumni of the academy.

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

The academy will meet from 6:30 to 9 p.m. every Thursday for eight weeks starting April 4.

Those interested in attending the class must fill out an application, which is available during normal business hours at the Waynesville Police Department. They are also available for download online at

Applications must be turned in no later than March 26.

The class is free of charge and open to anyone 21 years old or older. Applicants are required to have a background check.

For more information contact the records clerk at 828-456-5363 or e-mail Mary Ford at

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