Sweet Home police to launch Citizen’s Academy

The Sweet Home Police Department is offering its first Citizen’s Police Academy this fall and is accepting applications for the program.

The program, part of the department’s “community policing efforts,” allows city residents the opportunity for an in-depth look at how the police department functions as an integral part of the community, said Gina Riley, community services specialist.

Riley is coordinating the academy.

“Students will hear from officers, as well as other local officials from the criminal justice community, about their role in law enforcement and prosecution,” Riley said. “Classes focus on the department’s role in the community, its purpose for existence,

principle accountabilities, goals, their mission and objectives, but primarily it is an information gathering and sharing agenda.

“Students will have the opportunity to tour the Sweet Home Police Department, the Linn County Jail, take part in hands-on ‘simulated’ crime scene scenarios and have the chance to ride along with Sweet Home Police Department Officers as they perform their daily duties.”

Riley, who previously worked at the Linn County District Attorney’s Office, used to tell people they should attend Linn County Sheriff’s Office’s academy, she said. She said she realized it seemed a little hypocritical to send people’ to the Sheriff’s program and decided to put on a city Academy.

Even working within the criminal justice system, she found the Sheriff’s program fascinating, she said. “I was amazed at how much general information someone who’s been in the business for years and years can glean from that.”

It helped her in her own job and improved her awareness as a resident, she said. She also was shocked at the amount of resources available to the community.

“I think finding out the inner workings was very valuable,” she said. Citizens can understand why an officer did what he did.

A life-sized video simulator does a good job of bringing home what situations are like for police officers, she said. The classes also drive home the realities of law enforcement.

Unlike TV, cases are not solved in an hour, she said, and sometimes they’re not solved at all.

The classes explain how the district attorney decides how to handle a case, why or why not people go to jail or prison.

When Riley went to work for SHPD earlier this year, starting a Citizen’s Academy was on her list of things to do.

Sgt. Jeff Lynn approached her about it, and the two have been working on the programming together, she said. They have a variety of information and experiences to offer members of the community, facts about the law, a good understanding of what officers do and a good hands-on look at SHPD and what it can offer.

The Citizen’s Police Academy is open to Sweet Home area residents over the age of 18. The Academy is a nine-week course consisting of one three-hour evening class per week.

The department plans to conduct two academies per year at this point. Each class is limited to 25.

The application process includes a complete criminal background check. Applications will be held over and given priority for the next available class, should the current class be full.

For more information or to request an application for the Citizen’s Academy, contact Gina Riley at the Police Department (541) 367-5181.