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Citizens' Police Academy Builds Bridges

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
February 21, 2007

A survey conducted recently by the UNH Police Department confirmed the assumption that, overall, people don’t know what police work involves.

That verification has led to the first Citizens’ Policy Academy, a 10-week program run by the department, aimed at providing a behind-the-scenes look at university policing. Instructors include police executives, veteran officers, civilians and volunteers from the larger law enforcement community.

The pilot program launched last week with 25 “cadets” representing a cross-section of the campus community: UNH staff, students, and members of the Parents’ Association. (Anyone over the age of 18 was eligible. Due to the sensitive nature of some of the information, background checks were done on each participant.)

“When we got the results of the survey, we could see people had questions about certain things,” says Deputy Chief Paul Dean. “We had a yearning to bridge the gap.”

The role of campus police differs from departments that serve cities and towns, Dean says.

“The clients are different; the climates are different,” he adds.

During the next two months, academy attendees will get a brief introduction to such topics as identity theft, Internet crime, and homeland security. There will also be segments on firearm safety, the kinds of force police are authorized to use, and the protocol for vehicle stops.

A hands-on demonstration will show the cadets what happens during a suspected DWI stop when they try on the department’s “beer goggles,” which simulate the effects of over imbibing.

Participants will be able to go on a “ride-along” with an on-duty officer, riding in the cruiser during part of a shift. And, with an academy student as a volunteer, they will go through an entire arrest procedure, right up to getting on a bus and traveling to the county jail for the booking.

“We want to know what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong,” Dean says of the philosophy behind the citizens’ academy. “The good, the bad, the ugly—we want to know if something needs fixing.”

At this week’s class—held Wednesdays at the MUB—Durham Police Chief David Kurz will talk about policing in a university town while the UNH department prosecutor, David Mooney, will discuss the rules of search and seizure.

There will also be a presentation on the dispatch center, which mans 28 phone lines.

“And that’s just one week,” Dean says. “These students are going to walk out of here with a lot of knowledge that we hope they will go and share with others.”

He noted the intent of the course isn’t to “convert people to support police,’’ but to help them better understand the job that police officers do. The plan is for the citizens’ academy to become an annual event.

“Feed back from this one will help improve next year’s academy. And, hopefully, it will help us as a department to make improvements,” Dean says. “Hopefully, it will help build more bridges.”

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