Hands-on training into some of the tactics and procedures of the Herndon Police will be offered to area residents starting this month, as the Herndon Police Department prepares to open its 13th annual Citizen’s Police Academy.
The 12-week course features a three-hour tutorial in a different responsibility of Herndon’s police force every Wednesday evening starting on Aug. 22, with the exception of the week of Oct. 31. The academy already has an enrollment of 17 students, and a few more spots remain, according to Herndon Police officer Dexter Morgan, director of the program.
"It’s something we do to help with the community’s understanding of the police department," said Morgan. "I think that people want to know what their police department does … and it’s a great opportunity to learn more about that."
Topics of the classes include gangs, narcotics, polygraph examinations, traffic enforcement and crime scene investigations, according to Morgan. The class concludes with a trip to the Fairfax County Police Department weapons training facility where students are taught in firearm safety and operation, before firing practice rounds with a Herndon Police standard issue 9mm handgun.
THE COURSE is an important tool for the police department to reach out to the community, according to Morgan.
The Citizen’s Police Academy "can help them in reporting a crime, or assisting the police if they witnessed a crime," he said.
And by exposing the students to places and tactics that average citizens do not typically experience, it can help them to understand the mindset of a police officer, according to Herndon Police Lt. Jerry Keys. Those topics include a visit to the jail, a use of force tutorial and traffic monitoring procedures, Keys said.
"It gives the citizens an understanding into why we do what we do," he said. "At first glance, some of the things that we do, someone might think, ‘oh, why would an officer do this,’ but by explaining the procedures, they can understand what they might see an officer doing."
The experiences that Herndon resident Chris Tiller had as a student of last year’s Citizen’s Police Academy led her to volunteer one day a week with the Herndon Police Department.
"It’s interesting and it’s a fun diversion from everyday life," said Tiller, "but it’s also a great view into the job and really the blood, sweat and tears that go into this work."
THE ACADEMY is a great way for the police department to help citizens understand what it feels like to be in the shoes of the police officer, according to Keys.
"When I was a kid … I saw cops as enforcers, not people," said Keys with a laugh. "But we’re trying to let people know that we’re both."
Keys, who has taught several different topics at past academies, will teach this year’s incoming class about internal affairs and media relations. Over the years, Keys said that he has noticed that students have found aspects of every course that are interesting.
"When we do traffic training, people start with the questions about how they get out of things, what you look out for, people are always interested in that," he said. "We take them to the firearms range, and just about everyone is interested in that."
The most effective part of the program was in breaking out of the old commonly held notions about police officers and police work in general, said Tiller.
"It was interesting to get a real picture of police work instead of just our ideas from TV about what goes on in a police department" she said. "I was just so impressed by the level of effort that they go through to inform us about everything that they do."
"There really are a lot of really fascinating people there, and they play a very interesting role by protecting out community."