Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

February 18, 2013

Citizen academy offers residents a rare glimpse past the thin blue line

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Rank certainly hath its privileges. And the Jacksonville Police Department's Citizen Police Academy alums "hath" the coolest privileges ever.

For one, academy grads can assist the JPD with community special events. But more importantly, they have ongoing permission to ride around in a vehicle with a local officer.

April is the month for the upcoming 21st Citizens' Police Academy,  a free, 13-week educational program sponsored by the JPD.

“I encourage any resident who is interested in learning more about the Jacksonville Police Department to apply for the upcoming academy,” JPD Detective Tonya Harris said in a release.

City Councilman Billy McDonald, an academy alum, has said the experience is invaluable, one night a week, and, as mentioned before – fuh-ree.

"It is a big eye opener to most people," McDonald said in an interview a few years back. "One thing that you will learn is to never exit your vehicle unless the officer asks you to."

Between April 9 to July 9, academy students will learn about the JPD, its structure and organization, and the role officers play in the Jacksonville community, Harris said.

"Participants gain an understanding of police department responsibilities and the laws that govern it," Harris said. "Students are given the opportunity to offer ideas and share their experiences. The goal of the academy is to develop a partnership between citizens and their local law enforcement agency that benefits both."

Jacksonville Police Det. Greg Compton has said the academy allows citizens to learn the ins-and-outs of the police department.

“We win, and the community wins," Compton said in a previous interview. "We win by having citizens get to know us on a first name basis, and it helps us know the citizens better. The community wins because we get to educate them on the process."

Classes are specifically taught by members of the police department. Cer-tificates are awarded upon completion of the course. The academy is open to all Jacksonville residents 21 years old and older. Classes are held Tuesday evenings, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the JPD Training room, 210 W. Larissa St.

Anyone who applies is required to submit to a background check from the Texas Department of Public Safety and also the FBI. Those with  arrests or numerous traffic violations are ineligible.

Applications for the Citizens' Police Academy are available at the Jacksonville Police Department.

"We need to have them back as soon as possible as everyone will have to be fingerprinted so that backgrounds can be completed," Harris said. "Remember that the start date on the academy depends on if all background checks are in.

For additional information, contact Harris, who is crime prevention officer for the Jacksonville Police Department. (903) 586-2546 ext. 2235.