The Warwick Police Department kicked off the first session of its 30th Citizens' Police Academy on Thursday evening at the Warwick Police headquarters in Apponaug, welcoming in its second largest class ever. A total of 43 civilians interested in learning more about the goings on of the city’s police personnel signed up.
“You’re going to see good, bad and indifferent,” said Mayor Scott Avedisian in his welcome address to the gathering. “You’ll see everything from routine traffic accidents and traffic stops to commotion outside my office the other day…We have a troubled young resident who occasionally comes into City Hall and drinks all the hand sanitizer. Those are the types of things that you’re going to see, and the things you’ll get exposed to because, in a day, it’s a little bit of everything.”
The class is instructed by community police officer Daniel Maggiacomo, and consists of people mostly from Warwick but is also open to people from communities outside Warwick as well.
Among the participants were young adults interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement – some interning with the Warwick Police Department and others currently enrolled in criminal justice programs at CCRI and New England Tech. There were mothers of children interested in law enforcement careers, siblings of police officers and others were simply interested in learning more about police work.
“When you’re retired you notice everything,” said one man from North Kingstown during his introductory spiel. “People snooping, people loitering, peoples’ driving habits. I often think what would I do if I was in charge or if something went wrong like the police do. I’m here more out of curiosity than anything.”
Others wanted to be able to pass along info to their children.
“I have an eight-year-old at home who asks me questions all the time about the police, and I would love to be able to give him some answers,” said another man, originally from Maine and now living in North Kingstown.
The majority of the class, however, was from Warwick, and Maggiacomo gave them a breakdown of what they could expect over the course of the 12-week class, where each week they will participate in a series of two-hour long discussions to learn about everything from police protocols to the various training officers go through.
“People are generally curious,” Maggiacomo said to the group. “If you’re driving down Airport Road and you see a police officer stopping someone, you slow down a little bit. I know, because I still do it, and I wear the uniform. Like ‘What’s that police officer doing?’”
Participants in the class would be taken on a tour through the police headquarters, and were invited by Captain Joseph Hopkins to join the police’s Facebook page and take their first ever satisfaction survey, which can be found on the Facebook page and the Warwick Police website.
“Let us know what you think about how we do our job,” Hopkins said. “It takes literally two minutes, maybe three or four if you add a lot of comments at the end – which we want to hear. We want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.”
On the subject of the bad and the ugly, Maggiacomo stressed that an important point of the citizens academy is to spread a greater understanding of how police officers are trained to think during the job and why they may act in certain manners, with the ultimate goal to foster a better understanding about law enforcement.
“One of my other jobs in having you guys come through here is to change your opinion about what we do,” he said. “You may have been stopped by a police officer and he may have had a bad day. We’re humans. He may have had a bad day and he might have had a bad attitude. You’re going to come to this class and you’re going to figure out why.”
“Not everybody who is wearing this uniform should be wearing this uniform,” Maggiacomo continued, speaking plainly. “Not all cops have good days. Like everybody else, we’re human.”
Maggiacomo told the group that, by the end of the 12 weeks, they would likely have met some people they want to befriend going forward. Each member of the citizens police academy that passes the class is welcomed to join an alumni network of fellow citizens academy members, with the hopes that the network will continue to grow and people will help spread the word about the benefits of the classes.
“When you leave this program, you’re a part of that Warwick police family,” he said. “Hats off to you guys for coming through and wanting to get involved in your community.”