Police consider ‘citizens academy’Free class would give public glimpse into daily activities
The Fairfield Police Department is considering creating a “citizens academy” to allow the public to learn the ins and outs of law enforcement.
Fairfield Police Chief Julie Harvey said she is still developing the idea and said it is probably a year away from becoming reality. She envisions inviting residents to attend a free informational session in which they learn what police officers do on a daily basis.
Harvey said she would like residents to know what officers have to do when they encounter a drunk driver. An officer who is proficient in handling OWIs will demonstrate to the attendees how the driver is arrested and the amount of paperwork involved.
She would like the public to understand when and why a special response team, similar to a SWAT team, responds to a call. She said it all depends on the threat assessment of the scene. Officers have a rubric that determines when to send out the special response team, and if the potential dangers aren’t high enough on the threat assessment, the police do not send in the special response team.
Part of the reason Harvey wants to start this academy is to make the police department as transparent as possible. She wants to show residents how a dashboard camera works and explain why they sometimes malfunction, so residents don’t think the camera “conveniently” malfunctions when they are the ones pulled over.
Another thing the police want to stress to the public is that residents’ calls are never ignored and that they are prioritized based on importance.
“We don’t just disregard a call,” Harvey said. “We just don’t have the manpower sometimes.”
Harvey mentioned that, on occasion, the police can be swamped if they have to control traffic for a big event in town. If other officers are called away to respond to a medical emergency, sometimes that means no officers are left to respond to the low priority calls. Harvey wants residents to know officers will get to those calls when time allows.
“We’ve only got so many people, and sometimes the calls stack up, unfortunately,” she said.
Harvey also wants the public to understand the stress officers are routinely under.
“Take traffic control,” she said. “I guarantee that if you let somebody direct traffic during a major event, within five minutes they will say, ‘No more.’”
Harvey said she got the idea for the citizens academy from other towns that have done something similar. She said other towns have conducted their academies for two to three hours on a weekday night.
She said the informational clinic probably won’t get off the ground until 2015. The police department will be busy updating its policies and procedures throughout 2014. Harvey said she would feel more comfortable hosting the academy once the new policies are in place.