How the Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) works is a bit of a mystery to most residents. To help clear up that mystery, SCPD hosts the Citizens’ Police Academy (CPA). The program is open to any resident or business in Santa Clara and offers participants and department members alike a chance to interact with each other in relaxed class environment. Over the course of 12 weeks participants are introduced to the inner workings of the department with a structured curriculum that builds on previous lessons as the course progresses.
As a reporter for the Santa Clara WEEKLY and a Santa Clara resident, I enrolled in the class and so far completed four weeks with 18 other participants. The highlights include an introduction to the program by SCPD Chief Mike Sellers, an overview of the Communications Center, the various physical assets–both vehicle and weapons utilized–recruiting/hiring/training, Internal Affairs, crime statistics, drunk driving, Tasers (formally known as Conducted Electrical Weapons), Miranda rights and traffic stops procedures.
Other noteworthy events to come over the next eight weeks are a sit-along where a participant sits with a Dispatcher in the Communications Center for two hours to allow participants to learn what happens when someone calls 9-1-1; a ride-along with a police officer that could potentially go for their full 11-hour shift and a full-day’s worth of activity; and CPA Saturday, where students drive police cars and take part in exercises to simulate parts of what officers do. To prepare for this, each participant was fitted for a utility belt, complete with a radio, a fake gun and a bullet proof vest–not because participants will be in any danger, but to give them a better understanding of what officers go through during their day.
While the sessions are educational, informative and fun, what makes the program the most interesting is the instructors are department officers, who have many years of experience in their jobs and absolutely love what they do. You can see and hear the enthusiasm which provides a different perspective than what most people expect or might receive. During my 11 years with the WEEKLY, I’ve had numerous encounters with SCPD officers. Some have been traffic stops (that have never resulted in a ticket), while others occurred during active events involving emergency responders–which have ranged from multiple fires, to a bank robbery suspect held up in an apartment building, to a murder-suicide, to a bomb threat received at a local school. I can easily say without any hesitation that officers have always been professional and friendly–even when some of the situations were extremely stressful. The classroom environment allows the officers to be even more open and allows participants to get to know them in ways not normally possible.
Future updates regarding my time in the CPA will be published in the WEEKLY. For more information about the CPA, visit the Police Department’s website, www.SCPD.org. Select Community and then Citizens’ Police Academy.