Police Departments Reach Out With Academies
It started as a routine welfare check. It turned into so much more.
Investigators arrived to find a deceased victim face down on a bed, hands bound behind him. On the wall, a bloody palm print. Shell casings were scattered about the room. Crushed soft drink cans, a folded pair of jeans and tennis shoes were also in the room.
With that task at hand, the first Pinehurst Citizens Police Academy was off and running.
Eighteen residents of the village are participating in a program aimed at educating the public on police work by recruiting volunteers. The staged crime scene — complete with a mannequin stand-in as the victim — is part of the program.
Pinehurst Police Chief Earl Phipps said the class, which will be held twice a year, will be an on-going learning experience for the students and officers.
“It is a fun way of learning the methods of why we do what we do,” he said. “It’s as much as we can show them without them actually being there.”
Academy member Anne Steidinger, who worked as a court advocate for domestic violence victims in Virginia before moving to Pinehurst, says her friends are jealous when they find out some of the things the class is doing.
“I’m taking information back to them and they keep saying, ‘Man, I wish I did that,” she said
The class meets one night a week through the end of May and will have sessions on crime scene investigation, emergency response, evidence collection, communications, neighborhood watch and more.
“Somebody has a chance at the end of this to see every aspect of a call from beginning to end,” Phipps said.
Pinehurst’s academy is similar to the Citizens Police Academy in Southern Pines, now in its 13th year.
The Southern Pines Academy is offered once a year and has a similar curriculum to the one in Pinehurst. The Southern Pines class has an extra segment devoted to its K-9 unit, which Pinehurst does not have.
Bob Temme, community services director with the Southern Pines police, said the department uses its program to improve relations between the police and town residents.
“We are about opening a line of communication,” Temme said. “We get a lot more calls to my office and to the police department from people who have gone through the academy. Those are questions and contacts that would not have otherwise taken place.”
Temme said some residents attend the academy multiple times, so it is imperative that the department continues to fine-tune its sessions and look for ways to enhance the experience each year.
Annie Smith is a veteran of the Southern Pines Police Academy. Four years ago, she took the now-defunct Southern Pines Teen Academy. She has enrolled in the Citizens Academy each of the last three years.
“She helps teach the class,” Temme said of Smith.
Two members of Smith’s family work for the department, and that’s where she wants to end up once she finishes college.
“I like to keep learning,” Smith said. “I kept deciding to go because it was fun.”
In Pinehurst, Phipps is planning to have two academy classes each year. The next one will be held in the fall. He would like enrollment between 15 and 25 residents.
He hopes that the diverse group of residents will strengthen the organization through their knowledge and life experience.
“We’ve got every walk of life,” Phipps said. “There is a lot of talent here, and they bring stuff to the table that will make our agency better.”
Edmund Guidice is one of those folks. Guidice worked for 34 years with the San Mateo County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Department. He is a former police trainer who worked with SWAT teams for 19 years.
“For me, this is about sharing information,” Guidice said. “I get to lean what they (PPD) do, and maybe my experiences will help them.
“I’m retired now, but I still like being a cop.”
Guidice said the academy is a great opportunity for people to gain a better understanding of why police officers do what they do and to understand the dangers officers can confront on a daily basis.
“If people are civic minded and they want to know why people do what they do, then I feel like this is an excellent opportunity,” Guidice said.
Resident Steve Drink-water is retired from the television industry and lived in Los Angeles before coming to Pinehurst. His father was a police officer in Los Angeles.
He said he wanted to learn more about what the department does, and volunteer as a way to give back to the community.
“I am surprised at a lot of the technology this department has,” he said. “They are more state-of-the-art than I thought they were.”
Joan Ciminera, another member of the academy, said she has been interested in police work for years because a close family friend worked for a police department in New York.
“I always wondered what he did,” she said.
She patrolled some of the greenways in a golf cart with Pinehurst officer Reco Washington.
“It is interesting to see how they patrol, where they go, and how they can engage you in conversation but still constantly monitor what is going on around them.”
She called the academy experience an enjoyable one.
“As a PR thing it is excellent, because it’s more than just (officers) putting on a gun and going out (in the community).”
The officers gain a lot from the experience too.
Deputy Chief Floyd Thomas said the academy helps officers because it allows them to interact with the public, and it shows them that there are people in the community who are interested in what they do and care about the department.
“There is a lot of learning going back and forth,” Thomas said. “Every class has run over the allotted time because they all have a lot of questions and interest in what we do.”
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or email@example.com.
More like this story