CHICO, Calif - At a time when police departments around the country are facing increased scrutiny regarding policing practices from the public, national headlines covering police officer deaths almost weekly and the profession experiencing difficulty in recruiting qualified candidates, how do departments still manage to engage with the public and find individuals who want to enter the profession?
The Chico Police Department hopes the yearly program, Citizens’ Police Academy can help tackle some of those issues, by giving civilians a behind-the-scenes and up-close look at what officers encounter from day to day.
Action News Now Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough, who is a graduate of the 2017 class of the Citizens’ Police Academy, spoke to a department commander about the program and how it works.
The twelve-week course is designed to give ordinary citizens a look at various units within the department, including but not limited to officer beat patrols, detective work, K-9 handling and traffic investigations. Each week class members learn about a different element that goes into law enforcement and the goal is to offer an honest picture of what being a police officer is really like.
Chico Police Commander Billy Aldridge describes it as a great program for the community to get involved with. He says it is a chance to see the inner working of what happens on a daily basis.
That includes, says Aldridge, how internal affairs investigations work and how various cases are investigated.
Departments across the country offer such courses. The hope is to not only pull back the veil over the profession but also perhaps inspire someone who will consider law enforcement as a career. That is not always an easy sell.
The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training reports applicant failure rates for law enforcement, as high as 95%, so identifying qualified candidates can be difficult, say police.
The Citizens’ Police Academy is one avenue to move those interested in the profession into the learning pipeline early.
Commander Aldridge says attending the course gives people the tip of the iceberg in what to expect in the job. He says typically, each year, the department will get one or two individuals from the class who say, ‘I am in love with this job; I want to do it!’
He says everyone, regardless of sex, race or culture, is encouraged to apply. You must be at least 17 years old and live or work in Chico. It is a twelve-week course, every Thursday night, from 6 P.M. until 9 P.M.
Once the course is completed, those who finish are then qualified to continue working with the department as a Volunteer in Police Service; or VIPS.
Applications are still being accepted and there are a few open slots remaining. Classes start January 9, 2020, and continue through March 26, 2020.