Residents from throughout DeKalb ventured out on a muggy June evening to attend the Citizens’ Police Academy, a 10-week course run by the DeKalb County Police Department.
Officer Glenn Jefferson, who was instrumental in putting the academy together, said he couldn’t have been happier about the nearly 40 residents who showed up at DeKalb County Police and Fire Headquarters for the first class.
Jefferson, a lead instructor in the training division, said he was surprised by the overwhelming response and never thought the academy would grow to the size it did.
“I assure you that after these 10 weeks you’re going to understand what we do and why we do it. I want you to be the eyes and ears out there…I’m not trying to make any excuses—we don’t have the resources that we had at one time so we depend on you to be our eyes and ears if something is going on,” Jefferson said.
The free program, which runs from 7-9 p.m. every Thursday through June 30, was developed to help residents of DeKalb County get a better understanding of the inner-workings of the police department. Each resident enrolled in the program was required to undergo a criminal background check and anyone with a felony on his or her record was not accepted.
Police Chief William O’Brien said that another reason they were doing the academy was to connect the department with residents who might be able to help them keep on eye on what is going on in their neighborhoods.
“This has been a long time coming. Glenn has been working hard on it with our training division and we finally pulled it off. You folks make sure you connect with one another too; network through this program,” O’Brien said.
Many residents had previously attended programs similar to the academy and nearly half of the class raised their hands when Jefferson asked them who had done a ride along. However, Lamarva Ivory, a resident of south DeKalb, said that she enrolled more out of curiosity than anything else.
“I had a home break-in, and I have a relative who is a DeKalb County police officer. So, I just thought it would be interesting to see it from another perspective other than his. And, I do believe that somebody in my community needs to be involved to build a partnership,” Ivory said.
Ivory, who lives in Ellenwood, said that recently there has been a rash of break-ins in her neighborhood and she thinks people who live in the area are casing the houses and waiting for residents to leave, then breaking into their homes.
“I think it’s important to organize and do something. I kind of wanted to see—if they touch on it—how to go about organizing a neighborhood watch. I think it’s still good information to learn,” Ivory said.
Throughout the 10 weeks those enrolled in the academy will receive visits from different agencies within the department or those it works with, including District Attorney Robert James’ office, the special victims unit, the crime scene investigations unit and narcotics division. They may also have a chance to visit the medical examiner’s office and participate in a ride along. To graduate from the academy each person is required to attend at least eight of the 10 courses.
Assistant Chief Dale Holmes of the support services division said he hoped to eventually run at least three or four academies a year if possible.
“We’re losing resources that we have in the county and we’re losing budgetary funds and we need you. I’ll just be frank with you, we need what you have to offer,” Holmes said.