WESTERLY — Since reviving its Citizen Police Academy in 2016, the Westerly Police Department has experienced steady interest in the program from local residents and business owners.
When the department did not offer a spring session this year, Capt. Steven Johnson said he immediately began hearing from people who were concerned that the program was being discontinued.
Such was not the case. The Westerly police will offer another Citizens Police Academy beginning Sept. 17. The 12-week program allows participants to experience the inner world of law enforcement in a hands-on way and see firsthand how the department works, Johnson said. It is open to any citizens 18 or older who live or work in Westerly. People with felony convictions are not eligible to participate.
"The response has been overwhelming," Johnson said on Thursday. "We already have 10 applications that have been submitted and there's still two weeks to go in the application process. This has become a very popular program in the community."
Police Chief Shawn Lacey has said that the department resurrected the academy three years ago to enhance community policing efforts and public education. The program was first offered in 2006, with courses about every other year until 2012.
Five courses have been offered since the academy resumed. Johnson said every one has been filled to capacity — 20 participants. Course participation is limited to provide a more interactive experience, he said.
"We want to include as many people as possible, but it's important to keep the program at a level where we can offer the hands-on training and personal interaction," Johnson said.
The upcoming course will feature popular topics such as K-9 operations, firearms safety, and crime scene processing, as well as providing an inside look at everyday work, including accident investigation, DUI enforcement and responses to reports of domestic violence.
In addition to the public education component, Johnson said the program has been well received among the department's officers as well, who enjoy connecting with residents in a relaxed, non-emergency setting. He said participants have responded well to these interactions. Since the academy was revived, many participants have referred others to it.
Karin Maychek, a Westerly resident and business owner who took part in the first course, said, "These officers put their lives on the line every day and it is interesting to see it from their perspective. This is certainly a course I would recommend everyone take."
The upcoming course will be held on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. To apply, download the application from the Westerly Police Department website at westerlypolice.org, on the Westerly Police Facebook page, or pick up an application in the lobby of the station at 60 Airport Road. The deadline for applications is Friday, Aug. 30, at 4 p.m. People with questions are asked to contact Lt. Steven Johnson by email at email@example.com or by phone at 401-348-6105.