Citizens’ Police Academy helps police fight crime

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 24, 2002

Since World War II, this nation hasn’t seen the show of patriotism demonstrated as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists’ attacks.

More and more across America, people are taking greater interest in the responsibilities and dedication public safety personnel face each day as they perform their duties as police officers and firefighters. In Suffolk, residents and businesses alike have a police force dedicated to providing them with knowledge and &uot;weapons&uot; that enable them to take charge of their neighborhoods and take not a mere bite, but a tremendous chunk, out of crime.

That knowledge comes from the Citizens’ Police Academy (CPA), and the weapons of a criminal’s destruction are more and more often simply a pen and notepaper and a telephone. Citizens and business people are learning they can serve as the eyes and ears of this city’s law enforcement efforts, alerting police immediately of illegal activities and allowing them to &uot;round ’em up and head ’em out&uot; to a jail cell.


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The CPA has proven itself so effective, that officers and instructors are gearing up for the 11th session academy that starts in early spring 2003. If the success of the past 10 sessions is any indication, participants will rush to sign up for the 12 classes.

Academy participants gather from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Suffolk Police Headquarters. The sessions take place in the assembly room, and also there are two Saturday sessions consisting of a field trip to the Mills Godwin Court Complex and the Police Academy Firing Range in Chesapeake, where they will learn the handling and firing of police department issue weapons. Police training would be incomplete without a visit to Western Tidewater Regional Jail and a Marine Operations demonstration and candidates will participate in those events.

Participants will also meet Police Chief William A. Freeman, Police Chaplain Howard Skeeter and many other officers in the department.

People participate in this invaluable police training for a variety of reasons. Some want to be assured that law enforcement is truly a good career choice, and others simply want to learn how to &uot;take back their neighborhoods&uot; from drug dealers, robbers and other crooks.

Officer John Cooke and Jay Jackson serve residents through the department’s &uot;Community Services Sector,&uot; and a major part of their career involves serving as liaisons between police and local citizens. Both are extremely strong proponents of CPA, and they are always looking for people interested in becoming candidates for the distinction of becoming academy alumni.

&uot;The Citizen’s Police Academy was initiated to familiarize people with the type of training police officers receive,&uot; said Cooke. &uot;This type of training provides people with an inside look at the levels of responsibilities officers deal with each day the put on a uniform. It shows candidates at the academy sessions ways in which they can take charge of their personal safety, and it shows that no one should sit back and relax as criminals destroy their neighborhoods.&uot;

Officer Jay Jackson also noted that once people learn how they can act as &uot;eyes and ears,&uot; it usually follows that a &uot;Neighborhood Watch&uot; group springs forth in their community.

&uot;Our mission statement says, &uot;Law enforcement excellence and public service through partnership with our community,’ and the department’s personnel believes the people we serve could be of invaluable help in putting a stop to crime in their neighborhoods if they would just be eyes and ears for us,&uot; said Jackson. &uot;The very idea that a person might stop a drug dealer in their community should prompt each and every citizen physically capable of looking out a window and writing down information should propel everyone into action. It should also inspire our friends and neighbors to become candidates for graduation from the Citizens Police Academy.&uot;

Cooke and Jackson are available to any civic group, church, club or community group that wants to learn more about the next session of the Citizens Police Academy next spring. They may be contacted by calling 923-2358.

Candidates for the academy must be at least 21 years old and a resident of Suffolk. Applications are available at Morgan Memorial Library, the Municipal Center on Market Street across from the rescue squad, or from Police Department headquarters on Wellons Street.