Citizens Academy shines light on West Richland Police Department

Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldMarch 1, 2014 

Whether you're a fan of television police shows, or just curious how a police department works, you may want to sign up for the West Richland Police Department's annual Citizens Academy.

The free 10-week program for West Richland residents begins April 2 and runs 6-8 p.m. each Wednesday through June 4.

"The academy is a way for the department to educate the public and to connect with the public in a positive way," said Sgt. Duane Olsen.

Participants will work with officers and advocates from Domestic Violence Services to gain a working knowledge of how the department and officers work to protect the community.

There also will be two Saturday sessions, one at the emergency vehicle course at the HAMMER training facility and the second at Richland Police Department's gun firing range.

"They won't get to drive the emergency vehicles, they'll be in the passenger seat, but they'll still get an idea what it's like," Olsen said.

And yes, you'll get to fire a gun -- with an officer standing right next to you, Olsen said.

The department has offered a Citizens academy once a year for many years but this is the first time it has really advertised it, he said.

"The Citizens Academy is for anyone who's interested in finding out how we work, who wants to volunteer with the department or who may be interested in going into police work. It gives citizens a wide angle lens view of things," Olsen said.

Participants will learn a variety of police procedures, about gangs, police operations and special investigations, firearms and use of force.

"Those who watch the CSI shows on television will discover you can't lift fingerprints off just anything and you don't get the results back in one day," Olsen joked.

Graduates of the Citizens Academy may also choose to go on to become a VIP with the department which requires some additional training. VIPs are on the department roster and, on a regular basis, called upon to help with traffic control for parades and events, to carry documents to and from the police department to the courthouses, to do vacation checks, making sure homes and businesses are secure, and other duties, he said.

"But mainly we hope to make people more aware of what goes on in their neighborhood. They'll give us an extra set of eyes and be a big help to us in that way," Olsen said.

Between 15 to 20 can participate in the Citizens Academy. Preregistration is required. Registration forms are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Forms are available online at www.westrichland.org under "What's Happening." Or pick one up at the police department, 3801 W. Van Giesen St.

For more information, call 967-3425 or email dolsen@westrichland.org.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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