Citizens’ Police Academy gives residents up-close-and-personal look at police work

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride in a patrol car – in the front seat? Now’s your chance to find out.

The Durango Police Department is proud to offer residents the opportunity to participate in the 15th session of the Citizens’ Police Academy.

The Citizens’ Police Academy is a 10-week free program that allows residents of La Plata County to see firsthand how the Durango Police Department functions. Classes will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday evenings from March 15 to May 17.

The goal of the Citizens’ Police Academy is to acquaint residents with law enforcement’s role in the criminal justice system and to demystify exactly what it is we do. The Durango Police Department seeks to foster understanding through education and build a bridge between the police department and the community we serve.

This course will not turn you into a police officer. But it will give you deep insight into the many types of calls and situations that officers routinely handle.

The sessions include information about domestic violence, gangs, patrol operations, traffic problems, community policing and investigations as well as the history of our agency and the direction it is heading.

One session allows students to see the various tools used by the tactical team and have the opportunity to fire various weapons while under expert supervision on the police range.

An optional class will allow interested members to participate in unarmed self-defense training. Students also may choose to visit the Central Communications Center and listen to 911 calls as they are received and dispatched to officers.

Participating in a “ride-along” often is the high point of the program for many students. This allows the participant to go out on patrol with an officer in a marked police car. From the passenger seat, the student will witness the variety of demands placed on officers and how their experience trains them to effectively deal with diverse situations.

Instructors at the Citizens’ Police Academy are drawn from the Durango Police Department and include sworn police officers of varying rank as well as civilian members who keep the department running administratively. Questions are encouraged.

The Durango Police Department seeks to fill each program with a broad cross section of the community in order to forge a partnership between residents and law enforcement and create mutual trust and cooperation.

Lt. Ray Shupe is assistant operations division commander with the Durango Police Department.