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Citizens Academy grads help police spot, prevent crime
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Hinesville Police Department Sgt. Gerry Morris, right, lectures a Citizens Academy class about police officers required training. - photo by Denise Etheridge

Nine local residents will become the Hinesville Police Department’s eyes on the street once they graduate from the department’s Citizens Academy next week.

“They’re our eyes where we can’t see,” HPD Cpl. Joseph Madison said. “What I try to do is have everyone more active in responding to suspicious situations.”

He said he teaches academy participants to be aware of what goes on around them and to call if they think a crime is in progress, such as a burglary.

Madison coordinates the free course, which usually is held twice a year. The current class began Aug. 2 and its participants will graduate Oct. 11. Madison hopes to have as many as 25 students for the next course, tentatively scheduled to begin sometime in March 2012.

The most recent Citizens Academy course consisted of 10 two-hour sessions and two ride-alongs with police officers. The ride-alongs first must be approved by Capt. Johnetta Reid, the department’s patrol division commander, Madison said.

The class met weekly at the police department on M.L. King Jr. Drive in Hinesville.

“I wanted to find out how the law works here in Hinesville,” said academy participant and New York City native Oscar Marrero, 51. “It shows me what they have to go through and handle out on the streets.”

Marrero, a former substance-abuse counselor, said he’s been taught that if academy participants “run into a problem” with would-be criminals, they should call 911 and not try to handle the situation themselves.

“I love it. I wish we could go through this again. I would recommend this class to anyone,” said Pearlie Dawson, 64, a retired school food service supply tech. “I took the class because I wanted to know what goes on with our police on the beat and learn what goes on around the city.”

Dawson and Marrero both said a police officer’s job is difficult. Dawson said she has observed the emotional impact the job has on officers when they respond to child-abuse and domestic-violence calls.

Madison said academy graduates can assist with municipal court, accompany off-duty police officers when they keep the peace at school football games and are encouraged to participate in the neighborhood watch program.

“Some become neighborhood watch leaders,” he said. “And anytime we hold National Night Out, Safe Kids Day or help with Fort Stewart’s Fourth of July celebration, we ask them to assist. We do get a good amount of participation.”

Madison added that academy graduates are invited to city employee functions, such as those held during holidays.

“I went through the entire program and it was an awesome experience to learn about the services our police department provides and all that goes into keeping the public safe,” Hinesville public relations manager Krystal Britton said. “It is my desire to see more residents take advantage of this opportunity to learn about crime prevention and community policing efforts in the city.”

Academy instructors cover police department structure, crime prevention, criminal law and investigation, courtroom demeanor, patrol operations, traffic law and crash investigations, gangs and officer training and support.

To be eligible for the course, participants must be at least 18 years old, live in Hinesville and have no criminal record.

For information, call 368-8211.

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