Ask any group of children what they want to be when they grow up, and one or more will inevitably answer “police officer.” Whether it’s the excitement of the position, the desire to help others, or both, for some, that desire to be a peace officer never fades. In Marion, the Citizen’s Police Academy and its Alumni Association help fill that role.
Founded in 2001, the Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association (CPAAA) has approximately 40 members, who, according to CPAAA director Dale Baker, assist the Marion Police Department and the community in various ways–child ID programs, ALICE safety drills at schools, and ride-alongs with officers. CPAAA members are visible in their bright blue jackets at various parades and festivals, directing traffic, helping organize floats and bands, and making community events run much smoother. They can be found at high school football games, patrolling city parks, and providing home checks for residents on vacation.
“Whether someone’s gone for a week or snowbirds who are gone for the winter, they can call the police department, fill out a form and we’ll check their house for them,” said Baker. “If we notice something, we can get the police department there a lot quicker than three months later when they get back and find out the house has been burglarized.”
Before these dedicated men and women can become members of the CPAAA, they must complete the Citizen’s Police Academy. At the Academy, classes cover many aspects of law enforcement, including basic police practices, tactics, and topics such as drug investigations, report writing, patrol tactics and information, and more. All CPAAA members must be at least 18 years of age, a citizen of Marion County, and able to successfully pass a background check.
“Local law enforcement officers always appreciate support from private citizens,” said Lt. BJ Gruber, who manages the Marion Police Department’s MPACT program, as well as the CPAAA. “The CPAAA provides extra eyes and ears for the police.”
Gruber described the Citizen Police Academy training program as a “snapshot, crash course in MPD.”
“We introduce them to the different aspects of the department,” he said. “We might have a K-9 officer come in and explain his day-to-day job or a representative of our SWAT team come in and talk about the things they do. Academy participants learn about the exciting things as well as the mundane, like report writing and initial investigation. The intent is to familiarize our community with what MPD does.”
The Citizen Police Academy provides the citizens of Marion a hands-on opportunity to learn more about their Police Department and the daily tasks and services of police officers. Graduates may be eligible to join the Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association (CPAAA), granting them a special status at the Police Department.
“About half of the Academy graduates go on join the CPAAA, but plenty go through the classes just to get to know the police department better,” said Gruber. “We encourage a diversity of students of all ages and backgrounds.”
Those that do join the CPAAA are issued a special ID card that allows them access to areas and functions not open to the general public. They are allowed greater “ride along” privileges than most people. They also have the opportunity to volunteer their time that other citizens do not have.
The next Citizen’s Police Academy starts March 5 and runs every Tuesday for 10 weeks. Applications may be picked up at the front desk of City Hall, as well as the police station, or can be downloaded from the MPD Facebook page or police department website at www.marionohiopolice.com. The deadline to apply is February 8. Classes are limited to 20 students.
Nationwide, Citizen Police Academies surged in popularity in 2001, following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. They can be found in communities all over the country, assisting with a host of community policing projects.
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