It’s a free 14-week course that is essentially a condensed version of the course that the cadets take upon entering the Police Academy.
This year, over 212 citizens took the course – the largest in the NYPD’s 20 years of running the program – and they were treated to a beautiful graduation ceremony presided over by Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Tuesday, June 18, at One Police Plaza.
“One of the Academy’s strengths has been its ability to attract people from all walks of life, with strong ties to their community,” said Kelly. “Among the members of this class are members of the clergy, teachers, nurses, bankers, students, citizens who serve on their precinct’s community councils, and residents’ associations.”
The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association is very proud that five of its members were among the graduates that night. They were Elaine Carillo, Janet Forte, Stephen Forte (WRBA Treasurer), Marie Paz and Susan Sweeney, and we all owe them our thanks for taking part in this program.
“I hope that you came away with an understanding of the many ways an officer’s job is different from the way most people imagine it to be,” Kelly told the graduates. “With this training, you are now among the best informed members of the public on the challenges facing the department. We’re counting on you to help us reach out and educate others about everything the department must do to keep this city safe.”
Indeed, you do come away from this course with a better understanding of what it means to wear that badge. You’ll learn about how the NYPD handles domestic violence and child abuse, tactics employed when confronting a potential suspect, negotiating with a hostage taker, how to recognize the signs of bullying, and rendering aid to an emotionally disturbed persons.
In the shooting range simulator, participants get a taste of what an officer must feel when faced with life-and-death decisions. And they are engaged in discussion and role play about some of the current hot topics of controversy, most notably “stop and frisk.”
When I took part in the course last fall, I had some concerns going in that it was going to be one large exercise in public relations, a four-month defense of all things NYPD. But right from the start the instructors deconstructed the NYPD, pointing out the good along with 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. The NYPD makes it clear that it isn’t looking for a cheering section to attend these classes.
“Each of you were drawn to Citizens Police Academy for different reasons,” Kelly said. “And you brought your own expectations, your own questions. Maybe you wanted to gain a better understanding of the department’s role in your community. Maybe you heard discussions about the police in the news and you wanted to find out the truth behind the stories. Maybe you were upset with the police because of an encounter that didn’t go the way you thought it should.”
Indeed, among those attending the classes each semester are people who had bad experiences with officers. The vibe we got from the sessions we attended wasn't that the instructors were trying to win these people over, but that in some cases they left feeling justified in being angry because they had confirmation that they were, indeed, treated poorly. This showed us that the NYPD has opened this class to all; that they welcomed skeptics and critics.
Our feeling is that the better informed we are, the better we will be able to communicate and have discussions of procedure with our precinct. The WRBA is very proud of our five graduates and we hope that more residents will step forth to take part in this program in the fall.
If you are a resident of Woodhaven interested in the WRBA sponsoring your participation in this program, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at (718) 296-3735.