‘It’s a chance to educate’

Elizabeth Rund

Reality and fiction will crash, collide and be picked apart in the Kent Police Department’s new citizen police academy program.

Police program aims to clear up confusion

Reality and fiction will crash, collide and be picked apart in the Kent Police Department’s new citizen police academy program.

“It’s a chance to educate residents who are interested in how we do things and why we do things,” said Lt. Jayme Cole of the Kent Police Department.

Cole explained that most of the complaints the department receives are based on misconceptions of how their job is done.

For example, two or three units may arrive at the scene of a car crash. While an observer might be led to think that there are too many officers not doing anything constructive, police argue they are all playing a critical role. For instance, one officer may be taking a statement while another is directing traffic. Another officer may even be taking sketches of the area.

Sometimes people who are angry call in, but they’re not always sure what they are angry about, Cole said.

The main goal of the citizen’s academy program is to give residents a better understanding of what has happened when they pick up a paper and read about an incident, Cole said.

The program has been in the works for about a year, though similar programs in other communities have been around for years.

While still in the planning phase, the academy is likely to be three to four hours a week for 10 to 15 weeks. The academy will include explanation on topics like DNA and fingerprints. It will also be likely to involve outside speakers and a trip to the detectives’ bureau.

“It’s a great way to show people the reality as opposed to a crime drama,” Cole said.

The academy will be open to all Kent residents, but there will be a screening process. The screening process is intended to keep criminals or potential criminals from learning things about DNA and fingerprints that would help them get away with committing a crime.

The academy will be free for residents to attend, with funding for this program coming from a federal grant awarded to the police department.

Cole explained that the grant was not specific in terms of what the money could be used for, just that it has to be spent in three years. The hope is that part of the federal money will fund this program for two years.

William Lillich, Kent public safety director, said the original estimate for five sessions of the academy would cost roughly $19,000.

While this academy will not focus on teaching residents how to form neighborhood watch groups, Cole said he certainly encourages citizens to get involved in keeping their community safe.

Neighborhood watches have the potential to be problematic. They tend to be formed in response to something that has happened.

The hope is that those completing the program will be able to go back out to their neighborhoods and be able to share what they learned to make the watch groups more effective.

“It’s the same vein (as creating a neighborhood watch), but going a different route,” Cole said.

Lillich agreed.

“The hope is that there will be information that flows back into the community,” he said.

The city of Kent is a mix of permanent residents and students moving in and out every few months. This dynamic has posed many challenges for the police department and may pose a challenge for this program, Cole said.

Though most students reside within Kent for eight to nine months out of the year, Kent Police Chief James Peach has yet to decide whether students will be admitted into the program.

The citizens police academy program is part of a broader police program that was first outlined to the Kent City Council.

Lillich said the broader program will include increased neighborhood patrolling, increased foot patrols, a reinstatement of the bicycle patrol and a joint patrol between the city and Kent State.

Some aspects of the program may take years to fully reach all areas of the city, but grant have provided the money to start the ball rolling Lillich said.

Contact public affairs reporter Elizabeth Rund at [email protected].