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Community: Citizen Police Academies

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 47 Issue: 10 Dated: October 1999 Pages: 77-80
Steven R. Maffe; Tod W. Burke
Date Published
4 pages
Citizen police academies enable the residents of a community to become more familiar with the day-to-day operations of their police agencies; to understand better the procedures, responsibilities, guidelines, policies, and laws that guide police decision-making; and to become better informed about the actual role of the police.
The first citizen police academy in the United States was established by the Orlando Police Department in 1985 and was modeled after a British program begun in 1977. Participants usually must pass a criminal and motor vehicle background check and be fingerprinted. Classes are usually limited to 15-25 participants. They meet one evening a week for approximately 3 hours. The academies are free and last 10-16 weeks. Participants' ages range from 16 to 80 years old. Topics at the Roanoke, Va., Police Citizen Academy include an introduction to police operations, patrol, investigation, services, control, community services, special operations, road safety, criminal law and procedure, and communication. The advantages of a citizen police academy include exposure to new perspectives and better understanding and positive and proactive contact between police and citizens. Potential limitations include potential lawsuits if a participant is killed or injured while attending, resistance among police officers or administrators, lack of resources to sponsor an academy, and the possibility that a graduate will use the information inappropriately. Agencies wishing to start a citizens police academy should contact other police agencies for assistance, recruit local citizens, seek media support, and take several other actions. Photograph and addresses from which to obtain further information