By Chris Fish
WEST MELBOURNE -- For those who live in the West Melbourne area and are looking for a way to keep the streets safe from crime, the West Melbourne Police Department has the answer.
From now until Feb. 20, the department is accepting applications for the spring 2013 Citizens Police Academy.
The one night a week, seven-week course will teach participants the roles, tactics and responsibilities of the men and women who serve and protect, organizers said.
"Our goal through this is to create a collaborative environment between the police and community we serve," said Sgt. Jennifer Dick, accreditation manager of the city of West Melbourne, in an email. "We illicit feedback from the community, as they are our 'eyes and ears,' and we cannot possibly be everywhere or know everything all of the time."
Sgt. Dick said participants will learn different case laws regarding search and seizure, and they will also learn about topics that include drugs, gangs, DUI enforcement, traffic homicides, traffic stops, search warrants, crime scene and evidence collection and weapon safety and usage.
Sgt. Dick said the course also helps dispel rumors or incorrect assumptions that many in the community may have about police officers.
"The training will provide residents and individuals, who work in our city, the opportunity to get to know us, talk about perceptions of what they believe the police do or may not do and provide an interactive experience for them," Sgt. Dick said in an email. "There are often misconceptions of what police do; most of it garnered from what they believe they are seeing, but may not understand. One example of the latter of this is my stepfather, who used to tell me that cops have egos because they walk around all the time pulling on their duty belts (or) holsters. I changed his idea of this when I told him that our duty belts weigh 30 to 40 pounds, and we are adjusting them due to the weight they bare on our waists, backs and hips."
Sgt. Dick said her time instructing the academy has been a rewarding one.
"I have instructed the Citizens Police Academy for several years, and, at the end of each session, I have had many members tell me how rewarding it was and how their opinions and perceptions of what we do have changed," she said. "The experience for me has always been rewarding, as well, as the members have devoted time out of their busy schedules to get to know us and why we do what we do -- why we run toward critical incidents when everyone else is running away."
The academy begins March 6, the one-year anniversary of the death of Deputy Barbara Pill, and it ends April 17, organizers said. There will be a second session offered in the fall.
Classes will be held at the West Melbourne Police Department, so participants can interact with officers.
Applications may be picked up in person at the West Melbourne Police Department, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline for applications is Feb 20.
For more information, please contact Sgt. Jennifer Dick or administrative assistant Kathy Wilson at (321) 723-9673.