Sixth annual Citizens Police Academy aims to build trust
Josh LaBella – News Editor
For six years the Southern Connecticut State University police department has held its Citizens Police Academy – while essentially the same mission.
“Our goal is better communication with the campus,” said Chief Joseph Dooley. “We want people to understand how we do things.”
Dooley said the department is community oriented and the class is a way to showcase that and get feedback. He said throughout the seven week course, which began Feb. 21 and happens Wednesday nights, the class will cover a number of topics including the background and history of the department, police jurisdiction, and use of force.
“The students will also have the opportunity to do a ride along with the department,” said Dooley. “To see the job through a police lense.”
Dooley said the police department will run the class as long as they have at least 10 people sign up and will accept around 25 people at maximum. One of those students is Avery Mezzanotte, a senior international business major. He said he signed up for course, in part, to see what the university police do and how they are active on campus.
“I have looked into law enforcement,” said Mezzanotte. “I’m also taking a law class so I wanted to see the other side of the law. Also my friend wants to be a cop and we were kind of like ‘Let’s do it together’ and it’s been a good bonding experience.
Mezzanotte said in the first class they learned about the history of the department and its jurisdiction. He said they also learned about the fundamental principles of policing.
“The community is the police and the police is the community,” said Mezzanotte. “I thought that was really interesting how they act with the community but they have to be neutral in their work.”
Mezzanotte said one part he is looking forward to is the decision making shooting exercise – where students will use a police virtual reality roleplaying scenario to learn about use of force. He said he is also looking to go on a ride along.
Nate Scaniffe, a junior history major, said he wants to go into law enforcement and has been wanting to take the class since last year. He said he is the Southern police department’s intern and took the class to gain more knowledge in the field.
“It’ll be general insight into the police’s daily jobs, not real training necessarily – but a lot of it is,” said Scaniffe. “They’re discussing real life tactics, real life procedures, real life things that apply to all aspects of policing so I’m hoping to kind of get insight into those skills and pick up as much as I can.”
Scaniffe also said it is neat to talk with police about how they feel about certain topics and try and understand “their side of the coin.” He said he is excited for it and thinks everyone will have a lot of fun.
Dooley said they are not offering the Citizens Police Academy to try and recruit police officers. He said they want to build trust.
“If you don’t have public trust,” said Dooley, “It’s an uphill battle.”
Photo Credit: Josh LaBella