Stephen F. Austin State University’s Police Department received a $38,849 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services to create a citizens’ police academy.
The UPD will utilize the funds to enhance the community policing philosophy and provide the SFA campus and surrounding communities with the tools to help make the campus safer for everyone.
“The purpose of the academy is to provide insight into the responsibilities of a university police department and the measures it takes to help prevent, deter and respond to criminal and non-criminal activities,” said John Fields, chief of SFA’s UPD. “The program is designed to enhance communication and create long-term, meaningful partnerships with students, staff, faculty and supporters of the institution.”
Training sessions will be provided by guest speakers, including personnel from local law enforcement, the fire department and emergency medical services. UPD patrol officers and criminal investigators also will host sessions. The sessions will include information regarding topics such as alcohol and drug awareness, self-defense tactics, gun safety, fire and medical safety and more.
Hands-on training will be provided to allow participants to investigate a mock crime scene, collect evidence, conduct a traffic stop, take part in a shoot/don’t shoot scenario, and other interactive training sessions. These mock scenarios will help participants put themselves in the officer’s shoes and see things from a different viewpoint.
Open two-way discussions will not only provide a forum for participants to express their thoughts but also give officers an opportunity to explain and discuss the situations.
“Transparency and communication are key when it comes to building a working partnership with the citizens police officers serve,” said Whitney Mask, UPD officer and academy organizer. “Police work is never a routine job, and it can call for split-second decision making. When you open a two-way line of communication and citizens have an opportunity to experience a portion of policing, it can provide great insight into what law enforcement truly entails.”
Each academy will take place one day a week for eight weeks. The first academy is slated to start in mid-to-late January, and others will be offered throughout each semester. At the conclusion of the academy, an awards ceremony will be held to celebrate participants.
More information about the academy is available at sfasu.edu/upd or by calling (936) 468-2608.