By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The city’s police department is looking for a few good men — and women — to take part in its annual Citizens Police Academy next month, a free 10-week program that offers residents a chance to explore the inner workings of the department.
The course, which includes a four-hour patrol with a police officer answering calls, begins March 26 and is open to anyone 21 year old or those as young as 18 if accompanied by a parent. Classes are scheduled each Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. and will be led by City Marshal Tom Howard and many of his junior officers.
“I can assure you, the times flies and you will want more,” Howard said.
Limited background checks will be conducted on all applicants and convicted felons or those with lengthy criminal records may not be selected to participate.
Each week, academy students will delve into a different aspect of police work, from how police combat drunken driving, identity theft, domestic violence and other social scourges to field trips to the Essex County Sheriff’s Department in Middleton. Attendees will also experience how police, fire and ambulance crews respond to a mock car crash and use the Jaws of Life to extricate a “victim.”
“Come try it. If it doesn’t work for you, then you can walk away from it. You’re never too old to be informed,” Howard said.
The police department has been holding academies on and off since 1996, as it is considered another outreach tool to the community, much like the department’s annual open house. Howard called the academy a great partnership between the community and his department, adding it would help dispel many of the myths associated with police work along with making the public more willing to reach out to officers.
Last year about 12 people attended the academy and this year Howard is hoping to at least double that.
“The more people, the more exciting. A lot of people don’t realize how fun it is until they are there,” Howard said.
Not only have participants left the academy feeling enriched, so do the the officers who train them, according to police.
Inspector Charles Eaton, who last year led a class detailing the department’s gang unit and took a participant on a ride-along, said it was gratifying to share his knowledge with members of the community.
“It makes us more human,” Eaton said.
To obtain an application for the Citizens Academy, call the Newburyport Police Department at 978-462-4411, ext. 1002, visit the station at 4 Green St., or email email@example.com