By: Megan Roche
For those lucky sixteen residents who get to embark on a ten week journey through the Citizen’s Police Academy, a plethora of knowledge on endless law enforcement topics will be shared. The popular program is returning for a fourth straight year, beginning Feb. 19th.
The Citizen’s Police Academy was started in Denville in 2016 in response to much of the public wanting transparency. Since the inception, the program has been taught by the very Denville officers who commit themselves to the job daily. The topics covered range in use of force techniques to crash investigations.
When the class begins in February, eager residents will bring their questions and concerns to the officers who teach. For many who attend the program, there is a pure interest in law enforcement, from both young and old.
“The purpose of the Citizens Police Academy is to give the public a working knowledge and understanding of the operations of our police department and of law enforcement in general, to include our department’s goals and objectives.” The website says.
Sergeant Scott Revis, who is running the program for the first time this winter, has been involved with the program since it’s inception. He began as a teacher in the program and is now taking over the entire course.
“There’s a shift in what the people want to see and they want to see transparency. The general public want to know what their police officers are doing and they want to know why. We’re in a time where there is a lot of confusion of what might be right or what might be wrong for a law enforcement officer to do.” Revis said.
During the practical night, the members of the class arrive at the Morris County Public Safety Academy, unsure of what might await them. The group is split into three and off they go on an adrenaline pumping evening. Last year, students participated in traffic stops (Yes, you get to drive a police cruiser), virtual reality shooting training, and building searches. During this night, the participants gain a true understanding of the high stakes job of police work.
What sets the Denville Citizen’s Police Academy apart is the practical night. Towards the end of the ten week program, the students in the class become the police officers when they take over the Morris County Public Safety Academy for the night. The highly interactive evening exposes the public involved in the class to real life police situations.
“You can practice something in the classroom until you are blue in the face, but a person in the classroom may never fully understand the effect until you apply it. To sit there and have a little taste of how much thinking on your feet you have to do in law enforcement, it’s the closest thing that we can do in the community to bring it home.” Revis said.
During the evenings, each class is taught with a lecture before the groups expand into hands on activities. On night one, the officers give a tour of headquarters including the booking room, the breathalyzer machine, offices, cells, and a patrol car, where yes, you can turn on the lights and sirens.
The officers who take on the role of instructor are open to any and all questions. This program is one of the ways in which the department tries to have an open line of communication with it’s residents. Each officer does whatever they can to answer any and all questions asked.
“There is always an ah-ha moment for everyone in the class during one or more of the presentations. There will always be somebody who says Oh, now I get it. Every time I hear someone say that, it’s like a home run because that’s what we’re trying to accomplish in the first place.” Revis said.
The entire class is taught by the officers who work in Denville. The officers volunteer their time each year to teach as many sections of the course as they would like. They are also present at the practical night towards the end of the course.
Topics in the course cover everything from dispatch, animal control, Operation of Emergency Management, pursuits, School Resource Officer program, crash investigations, DUI investigations, Megan’s Law, drug recognitions, and much more.
“Unless something earth shattering changes our work, the Citizen’s police academy will stay largely similar to what actual recruits in the academy go through.” Revis said.
Assisting with the patrol concepts night this year is School Resource Officer Rick Duda. Duda will also present at the academy on ALICE training and the School Resource Officer Program. Duda is the current School Resource Officer at Morris County School of Technology.
“My thoughts on this academy is that it is essential to police/community relations and strengthens the bond that exists between them. By creating an understanding between the community and the job of a police officer it can only help us understand each other better and builds a bridge of trust.” Duda shares.
The class can fill up pretty quickly, but don’t fear, if not this year, there is always 2020. The class is an going staple in the department initiative to keep the public informed and they are always adding new things to the course as new laws and procedures develop in the law enforcement community.
“I think after taking part in this program, people have a different view of what it really takes to be a law enforcement officer. This is just one more thing that we can do to show the public what really goes on in the daily shift of a police officer.” Revis said.
After graduating from the ten week course, participants are given the option of going on a police department ride along with an officer. The department is accepting applications until Feb. 9. Applicants must be 18 years or older and must be able to pass a background check. Applications can be found on www.denvillepolice.org.