The West St. Paul-Citizen Police Academy starts class Sept. 20 with a new crop of local residents and business owners interested in learning more about police enforcement.
"The highlight for most, both police and citizens in the class, is an understanding that your local police department is there to help people and make the community a safer place for us to live and work," said Coordinator Becky Pentel in an email.
Organizers are celebrating the fifth year of the Citizens Academy. Mendota Heights Sgt. Brian Convery attributes much of that success to Pentel, who organizes the program's details—everything from the speakers to the weekly treats.
Up to 30 students will attend the nine-week program on Thursday nights at various locations in Dakota County for lessons on subjects including use-of-force, the "CSI effect," K-9 units, investigations and more.
(Editor's Note: I was a Citizens Academy student last year. My favorite classes were a presentation by a Dakota County prosecutor and the field sobriety testing night.)
Over the past five years, the program has expanded to include a tour of the dispatch center for Dakota County, simulated training with paint guns and a tour of Dakota County Jail.
The theme this year, "Armed and Informed," speaks to the program's ultimate goal of making neighborhoods a safer place to live. through education.
"Understanding how and why police do what they do helps citizens relate to police more effectively by calling in suspicious activity or participating in community programs and activities such as Neighborhood Crime Watch and Night To Unite," said Pentel.
All open slots for this year's class have been filled, but Pentel is already collecting names for next year's lineup, and said there has been discussion of establishing an advanced citizen police academy someday.