By Sonya Campbell
Harker Heights Herald
BELTON - Eighteen people who reside or work in Belton are learning more about the role of law enforcement by participating in the Belton Police Department's Citizen Police Academy, according to Sgt. Larry Berg, spokesman.
The 10-week course, which got under way Jan. 20, provides an overview of the police department and information on such topics as use of force, narcotics, building searches, traffics stops and criminal investigation.
Those taking the course include men and women who range in age from late 20s to 70s.
Students have included business people, city officials, retirees and others.
Many people who take the course simply want to get a better understanding about what police do, Berg said.
Some want to volunteer, help out with the Neighborhood Watch Program and otherwise "make a difference."
Berg said most of the reasons people want to attend the citizen police academy are the same as those of people who go through the police academy.
Not only do participants glean insight from presentations by officers - many are volunteer instructors - they also learn through role-playing.
Berg described a scenario where students act out a traffic stop that involves a belligerent driver. The driver is played by an officer.
Berg said the students often express surprise upon learning how some drivers react to being stopped.
The course is not only beneficial to students, but to police, as well.
"It gives us more eyes and ears. It's a good reporting tool," Berg said. "We want to get citizens involved. We want to bridge that gap."
The results so far have been positive.
An academy alumnus reported seeing someone acting suspiciously at Walmart, which resulted in a shoplifting arrest, Berg said.
Classes take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays at the police department. There is no charge for the course, but students are asked to purchase a shirt for about $25.
The academy is offered at least once a year. No date has been set for the next one.
Contact Sonya Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7585.