The Chapel Hill Police Department will be hosting its Community Police Academy on Nov. 14 and Nov. 16 to give community members an inside look at how the department functions.
Previously called "Citizens Police Academy," it's designed to increase the community’s understanding and awareness of the department’s role. This is done through computer-simulated hands-on activities and discussions, according to the Town of Chapel Hill’s website.
Ran Northam, community safety communications specialist for the Town, said in an email that the event is meant to inform the community.
"The Community Police Academy is open to community members who want to learn more about the day-to-day work of the Chapel Hill Police Department," he said.
Special Operations Captain Danny Lloyd oversees the program, and he said participants can learn about all aspects of the police department.
“It’s an opportunity for us to interact with the public, to invite them to come in and to let us share with them what we do on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “How we function operationally, and then to just sort of expose them to a day in the life of an officer across the different divisions in the department.”
The academy is split into two sessions, with presentations exploring topics such as officers' equipment, investigations and forensic evidence, use of force by officers, headquarters and a typical officer’s qualifications and training.
Lloyd said participants will have the opportunity to experience some scenarios on their firearms simulator.
“They would be put into a situation where they are interacting with a video screen and seeing different simulated incidents that a police officer would respond to,” Lloyd said. “It’s an interactive simulation, so the person controlling that can dictate the direction that it would go based on the input that they get from the participants. It gives them a chance to see how the decision-making goes for officers when they’re out dealing with different situations on the street.”
Lloyd said representatives will also take participants through an arrest procedure, appearing before a magistrate and hearing a case’s details to determine probable cause.
The second session on Nov. 16 will have a presentation from the department’s crisis unit on dealing with sexual assault, domestic violence and mental health issues. The session will also have demonstrations from the K-9, special emergency and traffic units.
Lloyd said the police chief will typically attend the second session to discuss how the department processes citizen complaints and conducts investigations into allegations of improper behavior from officers.
Anyone interested in attending the academy must be at least 16 years old and complete an online application, according to the Town’s website.
“We try to get a good mix of different demographics of different age groups,” Lloyd said. “It’s good to see how the different class participants interact well, so having a good cross-section of folks creates good discussion.”
Lloyd said members of the community should attend the academy because there’s a lot of misconceptions in the media and popular culture about law enforcement, what they do and why they do it.
“It gives us an opportunity to explain to people what really motivates us to do what we do, how we do it, why we do it and to let them see that we have similar interests as the people in the community,” Lloyd said. “Our interest is in creating a safe town here in Chapel Hill, being respectful of all people here and welcoming their input and feedback.”
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