The Hinesville Police Department will begin its annual Citizens’ Academy at 6 p.m. March 12.
According Cpl. Joseph Madison, the 22-hour course will consist of 10 two-hour classes from 6-8 p.m. each Tuesday at the police department on M.L. King Jr. Drive. The program began in 2006.
“We wanted to build police-citizens relationships, to give citizens a better understanding on what we do, how we do it and why we do it,” said Madison, a nine-year veteran of the HPD.
He said the purpose of the course is acquainting residents with HPD’s goals, organizational structure and general operating procedures. By promoting good will and a general understanding between the department and the community, he said the academy helps encourage community involvement and support in making Hinesville a safer place to live.
Madison said most of the course will consist of classroom training conducted by 10 different officers and department supervisors on topics like HPD structure and administrative operations, criminal law and investigation, traffic law and investigation and law-enforcement communication. In addition to the classroom, participants may get to ride along with an officer on patrol, walk with an officer during a sporting event, sit with an officer in court and participate with an officer during special community events like Safe Kids’ Day and National Night Out.
He said those who complete the course will have a better understanding of how to report suspicious activity, and many become neighborhood-watch captains. He said the course not only builds a better understanding and a trusting relationship with HPD officers and the community, it helps the officers, too.
“We’re just like other people,” he said. “We’re husbands and fathers, wives and mothers. We just have a different job than most people. One thing we hear a lot from those who’ve taken the course is, ‘I didn’t know you had that tough a job,’ and ‘I didn’t know you were that approachable.’”
Madison, who is retired from the Army, said now that he knows how that other person feels when he or she sees a blue light in his rearview mirror or sees a cruiser on patrol in their neighborhood, he can better understand why some people are reluctant to report suspicious activity or ask an officer for advice or assistance.
“They don’t have to, but a lot of people will take the course again and again,” Madison said. “Some people like working with us that much. Some take it again just to get updates on the current crime situation in the community, like gang activity.”
To be eligible to take the class, a participant must be a citizen of Hinesville and 18 years or older with no criminal record. For more information, call 368-8211.