Citizens’ Police Academy

I’m getting ready to sign up for the Citizens Police Academy in my county. If you write mysteries, this is a great way to learn the gritty details about how the police operate and the experiences shared by our law enforcement officers. Many areas offer this kind of program, so if you’re interested, check with your own police department. And it is free.

I heard about this opportunity from other members in Sisters in Crime. There’s also a week-long police academy for writers held once a year in North Carolina, I believe, but that is pricey.

In my area, the academy runs a class once or twice a year, depending on budget availability. The 12-week program is conducted one evening a week from 7 to 9:30 p.m. It’s held at a number of locations that provide the best environment for this diverse learning opportunity.

The academy is an informational program only. Even we graduates will have no police powers or authority. Oh well. Maybe we’ll get a certificate.

The announcement says that participants in the program will learn about the organizational structure of the police department, the mission, role and values of the agency, community policing concepts, criminal procedural law, criminal investigation techniques, evidence collection procedures, traffic law enforcement, drug enforcement, community relations/crime prevention programs, youth programs, and use of force issues. We’ll also engage in practical exercises including driver training, firing range activities and a patrol ride-along opportunity.

The minimum requirements to participate are to be 18 years of age or older, a resident of our county, and have no criminal record.

Of course, all this relates to the citizens police academy offered in my area, Howard County, Maryland. Some things may be different in your own area, but participating in this kind of program will help you provide accurate detail in the crime scenes you write.