Police Programs Get Residents Involved

Connexeo - 02/06/2018

Police departments around the world are on the job 24/7 to detect and deter crimes in their communities. But their activities are usually publicized only during a major crime or when something goes wrong.

Many departments are communicating their value to residents by actually making them a part of their activities. Programs such as Citizens Police Academy and Citizens on Patrol educate participants about the duties and policies of policing and often provide means to help them do their jobs.

These programs also lead to associations for participants to join during or after the programs. Association membership software can keep track of the roll and participation in activities.

Citizens Police Academies and Citizens on Patrol – some departments use different names, such as Volunteers on Patrol – are different programs, though both disseminate information about police operations. Some departments offer both programs.

Citizens Police Academies

Police departments offer these programs once to four times per year in a class format that is designed to build camaraderie among the class as well as explain the ins and outs of policing to residents.

These classes meet weekly for six to 10 weeks, depending on the department, and are an exhaustive introduction to police work. Usually, each week features a representative of one of the department’s divisions – traffic, major crimes, detectives, dispatch, etc. – explaining their duties and often offering hands-on demonstrations of the equipment they use.

The specialists will often describe a day in their life and go through their tools. Participants may spend an hour or so in the dispatch room, look through the police blotter and see all the detailed maps – printed and digital – that officers use.

Near the end of the program comes the part most academy students look forward to the most: the ride-along.

While participants won’t be put in harm’s way, they will get to ride in the police car with an officer for two to four hours. They can explore the bells and whistles in the car, such as the lights, sirens, radios, video systems and computers that call up a suspect’s information. A favorite trick is for the officer to call up the participant’s own traffic record.

Through the riders will likely not be involved in any actual arrests, there may be a traffic stop or two and some witness investigation interviews. But nothing that would involve danger or invasion of suspect or victim privacy rights.

A graduation ceremony completes the program, with the police chief often presenting the certificates of completion.

The graduates are then eligible to enroll in a Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, through which they can socialize and keep up with the latest police department activities during regular meetings. They can also help recruit new students for the next academy and become champions of the program.

Many go on to help the police department if it has a Citizens on Patrol program.

Citizens on Patrol

Residents who join Citizens on Patrol programs will likely end up spending more time in police-related activity than Citizens Police Academy students in the long run, but the training period is much shorter.

Citizens on Patrol members, after training, will usually work two or three two-hour shifts per month patrolling their neighborhood in their own vehicle to spot any suspicious activity and report it to the local police station by calling 9-1-1 or a special number.

Patrollers are most often paired up, with one person driving and the other on the lookout. A car-roof sign, like the ones pizza delivery cars have, is attached, as is a magnetic sign on the sides of the cars.

In addition to suspicious activity, Citizens on Patrol watchers also look out for things such as open garage doors with no one present. They have a list of current phone numbers for all addresses in their area and will simply call the resident to alert them to the potential crime risk.

Every activity is logged, and the driver will end the shift by passing on the signs, log book and other material to the next patroller up.

Training comprises up to eight hours of classroom training – usually on a Saturday – along with an evening in the dispatch room and, with some departments, a ride-along. A test on what was learned is a prerequisite to acceptance in the program.

With both academy and patrol programs, a background check is required. Some departments mandate membership in a local crime watch program, which provides a good incentive for those who wish to learn more about police work.


Javascript is not enabled. This may affect content rendering. You can enable Javascript in your Settings Menu.