Kent Citizens Police Academy presents interactive training for locals

Grace Murray

Kent residents will have the opportunity to see their tax dollars at work in the city police department’s fourth Citizens Police Academy beginning Thursday, Feb. 20.

The free 11-week course offers academy members four-hour classes from 6 to 10 p.m. ranging in topics from the use of force and criminal law to drunk driving enforcement.

Kent Police Department’s Lt. Jim Prusha said many of the courses would include role-playing scenarios in which the members will act as the officers. Additionally, he said trips to the shooting range and ride-alongs will be coordinated during the course as well.

“The courses let people see what the Kent Police Department is all about. It’s not what you see on TV,” Prusha said with a laugh. “Though, everyone seems to really enjoy it. Past participants have really become advocates for the academy and the department.”

One such advocate, Shay Little, associate vice president for Kent State’s Student Affairs department and dean of students, attended the academy last year and said it was much more than she anticipated.

“I expected lectures and information sharing,” Little said in an email interview, “but I truly enjoyed the interactive activities and hands-on scenarios that we did for most of the class sessions.”

Little said she appreciated the chance to learn the day-to-day tasks completed by officers because it gave her an inside look at the department as well as an increased understanding of city policies.

“The best part was getting to try to do the tasks that police officers do regularly,” Little said, “such as trying to handcuff an individual, learning to lift my fingerprint from an object, approaching a vehicle for a traffic stop and learning how the special task forces and units of the department operate.”

Though this is the academy’s fourth year, Kent Police Lt. and Operations Captain Paul Canfield, who was tasked to start the first academy, said not much has changed over the years.

“All we’ve really done is change some of the logistics of the courses,” Canfield said. “It wasn’t that there were any major problems; it was more moving classes to fit the weather and situations like that. You don’t want to take members to the range or outside to watch the K9 unit work in the dead of winter, so we moved those to later in the course.”

The Shaker Height’s academy served as the model for Kent.

Canfield said the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant paid for the first three years of the course, but this year the course will be paid for out of the department budget as the grant money ran out.

Both Prusha and Canfield said the department decided to continue the course even though the grant money ran out because they’ve had so much success with it in the past.

“It’s a chance to interact with people and to give people from the community an idea of what we do,” Canfield said. “Getting to teach people our point of view and getting to learn their point of view, so we can perform better as a department in the future.”

Relying on numbers from 2011, Prusha said the academy cost $7,221 with most of the money going toward overtime pay for officers leading the courses. However, he said he expects the price of the academy to be lower this year than in the past.

“I don’t expect it to cost us as much as it did the past because we have some office supplies left over from previous years,” Prusha said. “We also do a certificate-presentation dinner for the members at the end of the course, and we had it catered by Cajun Dave’s last year. That cost us $750, so we’re looking for cheaper alternatives there as well.”

Little noted that she’s glad the department has decided continuing the program as she’s recommended it to numerous Kent State students and friends.

Though registration for the course was scheduled to end Feb. 6, Prusha said the date would likely be extended due to a lower number of applications than originally expected. Those below the age of 18 or who have a known criminal history will not be permitted to attend the course.

For more information on the course and access to the application material, visit the Kent Ohio Police Department website.

Contact Grace Murray at [email protected].