Twice a year, residents gather for a free course at the NYPD’s Police Academy, a building designed to develop better working relationships with the communities of New York City. This program, called the Citizens’ Police Academy, aims to give residents a better understanding of the NYPD, how it operates and how it interacts with those they have sworn to serve and protect.
Late last year, well over a hundred residents signed up for the classes, which were given at the NYPD’s Police Academy on 20th Street in Manhattan (starting this year the classes will be given at the brand new facility in College Point). This past week, those that made it through the 14-week course gathered at 1 Police Plaza where Police Commissioner Ray Kelly handed them a diploma.
I was very proud to join two other Woodhaven residents in receiving their diplomas that night. One was my wife, Josephine Wendell, and the other was Monica Varona. When we began the course back in September we didn’t quite know what to expect. Was this going to be one large exercise in Public Relations, a 4-month defense of all things NYPD? We’re happy to report that it was nothing of the sort.
Right from the start the instructors deconstructed the NYPD, pointing out the good alongside the bad. Hire 35,000 people to do a job and you’ll end up with a few that are less than desirable, and they were not shy about repeating that fact or acknowledging their faults.
Among those attending the classes were a few residents who suffered through bad experiences with the officers, showing that the NYPD had opened this class to all; and indeed, they welcomed skeptics.
The instructors were well versed in their various areas of expertise and certainly handpicked for their jobs at the academy for their skill at keeping up with the weekly 3-hour courses; both educational and entertaining. Thus, such weighty topics as “Standards of Proof”, “Introduction to the Criminal Justice System” and “Introduction to the Constitution” were user-friendly and enlightening. All three were all given in a single evening!
Controversial topics, such as “Stop & Frisk” and “Use of Force” as well as serious subjects like “Domestic Violence”, “Special Victims” and “Child Abuse” were treated openly and respectfully. Other opinions, or differing points of view, were encouraged and all topics were discussed with respect for those views.
Along the way were some topics that caught me by surprise.
I found the class on “Internal Affairs” a fascinating look behind the scenes at the steps that NYPD has taken to stamp out the corruption that gave them such a black eye in the early 90’s. The session given by the School Safety Division on bullying was a real eye-opener, showing us how different bullying is now, compared to the days of my youth.
Years ago, when kids left school, they were getting away from the bullying, however now the victims continue to be bullied after school and on weekends. - Online in chat rooms and on Facebook.
Lt. Jack Cambria, the city’s top hostage negotiator, gave another interesting course. Having served as a consultant on numerous Hollywood hostage movies (including the recent remake of “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3”), this session was chock-full of thrilling and exciting anecdotes. And finally, one class that we missed was Firearms and Tactics, in which they hand you a gun (with blanks) and you enter a real firearms simulator.
There were other topics of interest throughout the course and we all walked away with a better understanding of police work, those that chose this as their profession and the rules – and restrictions – under which they operate. If you are interested in attending, or have more questions, please feel free to contact us at 718-296-3735 or firstname.lastname@example.org (or attend our next Town Hall, Wednesday February 20th at 8 PM at 78-15 Jamaica Ave. – our guests will be the NYPD).
And on a final note, it was very exciting being part of a graduation ceremony – very much the same ceremony that our young cadets go through upon graduation. It was also very exciting to share the stage with all of the NYPD’s top brass, including Commissioner Kelly, who like me is a graduate of Archbishop Molloy. This was an experience I will never forget.