By Michael R. Gentry
The idea of a "Citizen Police Academy" is reported to have begun in England. The constabulary considered it beneficial to involve citizens directly in policing and to aid in night watches.
Shortly thereafter, the Orlando, Fla., Police Department brought the concept to the United States and the Missouri City Police Department was the first to implement the idea in Texas.
All three of these were initiated in 1977 and early 1978.
The Harker Heights Police Department began its Citizen Police Academy in early 1996 and the program has continued since. Several Bell County police departments also have similar programs.
The Harker Heights CPA has trained almost 400 citizens in topics such as the history of policing, criminal law, use of force, traffic enforcement, vice and narcotics enforcement, homicide investigations, search and seizure law, court processes and personal safety and security principles since it began.
Graduates of the program are eligible to join the Harker Heights Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association and they are also qualified to serve as volunteers to assist the police department with various activities and events.
Volunteers serve to assist the PD at community events, activities, house watch patrols and special enforcement efforts, such as "Operation Safe Shopper" during the holiday shopping period.
The 14th session of the Harker Heights Citizen Police Academy is scheduled to begin Feb. 9 and participants will graduate April 26.
If you work or reside in Harker Heights and are interested in attending, please contact the Community Services Section of the Harker Heights Police Department. It can be reached at (254) 953-5400.
Mike Gentry is chief of the Harker Heights Police Department.