September 17, 2014
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Academy gives insight to police work

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a police officer? If so, residents will get a chance to see an inside look at the Warwick Police Department (WPD) this spring, as the WPD is hosting a Citizens Police Academy.

The academy, which runs for 10 consecutive weeks from March 14 to May 16, covers the hands-on training that officers follow in an effort to teach residents about what the department and its officers do on an everyday basis.

It also aims to build a stronger bond between the department and community. Officer Steven Nelson is running the program.

“It’s an informational academy and gives people a better understanding of how the police department works,” Nelson said. “We do a mock crime scene, explore evidence, the differences in fingerprinting, what can be fingerprinted, as well as a discussion on blood spattering.”

With the popularity of television shows that focus on crime such as “Dexter,” Criminal Minds” and “Crime Scene Investigation,” Lieutenant Michael Gilbert agreed with Nelson and said Bureau Criminal Identification Unit detectives share knowledge about fingerprint evidence and blood spatter analysis, as people are curious to what goes on behind the scenes. He said people sign up for the academy and often realize what they see on TV is fiction.

“A lot of people think you can find a breath mint or a used piece of gum at a crime scene, send it off to a lab and get a result in a week, but it doesn’t work like that,” said Gilbert. “DNA tests can take months. For a high-profile, violent crime like a murder or sexual assault, they can maybe turn it in within a month or two.”

Additionally, residents will get the opportunity to take part in “ride-alongs,” in which they will go on the road in cruisers with officers, as well as learn about emergency vehicles on an Emergency Vehicle Operations Course, weapons and their functions, classes on sex offender registration information and other topics. In past years, S.W.A.T. teams have done demonstrations for applicants.

“It’s a broad spectrum overview of everything we do, from the detective division to the patrol division, to specialty units and the history of the Police Department and how we’ve evolved and changed over the years,” Gilbert said. “You get to see some of the training police officers do and how we learn to drive police cars at high speeds. If you ever have to interact with an officer, which is something everyone does one time or another, you’ll understand what the procedures will be, safety concerns and things like that.”

But, the WPD also benefits from the experience, said Gilbert, as they get a better understanding of what citizens want from the Department. In turn, citizens learn how to aid the Department if they witness a crime.

“We teach them how they can help the police and they leave with a respect for the WPD,” he said. “Plus, we get a firsthand account that explains to us what they are dealing with in their neighborhoods and build a relationship with them.”

Classes meet on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and are mainly held at the WPD Headquarters at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive. A few off-site meetings will be held on Saturdays.

The academy is free of charge to all Warwick residents and/or employees, who are 18 years of age or older, with no criminal histories. Participants must sign a waiver and agree to a background check. The deadline for applications is March 7 and class size is limited to 35 people. Non-residents are also eligible but Warwick residents have priority.

Also, there is not a cut-off age and it is open to males and females.

“It could be for someone in their 40s, 50s or 60s who have no intent to join the force in terms of a career but are curious to learn about the WPD and what their tax dollars are paying for,” he said.

Those younger than 18 can join the year-round Explorer Cadet Program. It’s available for youths as young as 14 and is operated like a police academy.

Gilbert said it’s important for people to remember the Citizens Police Academy is not recruitment for the Department, however, they are currently running recruitment at the WPD. For more information, contact Lieutenant Rick Rathbun at 401-468-4333.

For more information about the Citizens Police Academy, contact Nelson at 401-468-4373 or steven.nelson@warwickri.com.


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