Citizens’ Academies – Education Leads to Understanding
More so than ever, law enforcement needs to be ready to explain actions by police officers in the line of duty. Society expects law enforcement officers to be able to explain their actions. This is the reason that documentation of facts at the time of an incident is critical to good report writing. Good documentation is key to effective policing in a court of law, but not perhaps in the court of public opinion.
Law enforcement functions well in explaining itself in court. One would think when officers are found not guilty by a jury things are looking up. That is often not the case because the officers are still held accountable for wrong doing in the Court of Public Opinion.
Communication is the key to success. Why not educate the public about the concepts of lawful policing? Law enforcement can proactively help itself by initiating programs to educate the community about policing.
Changing times call for a changing approach. On February 17, the Lynchburg Virginia Police Department will begin an eight-week “citizen’s academy.” Topics covered include the role of school resource officers, gangs, tactical operations, and more.
First preference is being given to teachers. This is a very wise move. The law enforcement community and school need to collaborate to protect and prepare our most precious resource; our children. Creating an
environment of understanding fosters trust. What is developing in Lynchburg is a proactive approach to communicating and working with the community which I warmly embrace.
The FBI has also recently introduced the concept of citizen academies. The Bureau takes applications from community leaders who can act as liaisons in their neighborhoods. Course topics include:
- Practical problems involving evidence collection
- FBI jurisdiction and congressional oversight.
- Structure and operation of FBI field offices and
- Fingerprint, forensic, technology, training, and
- Policies and issues: ethics, discipline,
communication, civil rights, and criminal trends.
- Firearms training.
Law enforcement agencies need to take the lead in educating the community about what they do and how they operate.
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