The LaGrange Police Department started the first week of its Citizen’s Police Academy on Tuesday.
The ten-week course will run through the end of March with graduation on March 27. The two-and-a-half hour classes are taught each Tuesday evening at the LPD Training Center on Aerotron Parkway.
For more than three decades, the LaGrange Police Department has conducted these classes in order to build relationships with the local community. The classes bring citizens into the day-to-day processes of law enforcement. The Citizen’s Police Academy allows the public to have a bit of insight into the people that keep our streets and homes safe and a look behind the metaphorical curtain of law enforcement.
The classes are primarily taught by training officers Lt. Eric Lohr and SPO Jim Davison, but additional instructors are brought in for some specialized instruction over topics like drug and gang investigations or K-9 units.
The first week’s class offered an overview of the program and an agency overview of the LaGrange Police Department.
The class began with a bit of history of the La-Grange Police Department and the folks that head up the department. The City of LaGrange was incorporated in 1828 and the police department was started the same year. Since then LPD has had 10 different chiefs of police, with the current chief, Louis Dekmar serving LaGrange for the last 23 years. Chief Dekmar oversees 90 sworn officers and 22 civilian employees at the LaGrange Police Department.
The LaGrange Police Department is a six-time Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) accredited law enforcement agency. CALEA is a credentialing authority that provides internationally accepted law enforcement standards to public safety agencies and their training academies. CALEA has rigorous standards in every aspect of policing. LaGrange Police are proud of their accreditation as it shows that they are among the best in the United States.
The ten-week course will cover a wide variety of topics and include instruction on personal and family safety as well as instructions on the many aspects of police work including investigation, evidence collection, court work, public safety, K-9s, and firearms. Participants will have the opportunity to go on ride-alongs with officers, as well as view demonstrations of all types of police activity.
One of the goals of the course is to foster a mutual respect between law enforcement officers and the public. The public perception of police officers is often skewed because the most common interactions with police are either people reporting a crime or being charged with committing a crime themselves. Neither instance is exactly a pleasant experience.
No one likes getting pulled over for traffic violations. Even if the officer only wants to warn you that your tail light needs changing, the stop can elevate your heart rate out of fear of getting a ticket. That’s what your subconscious remembers, not them telling you to slow down or change your brake light.
The Citizen’s Police Academy aims to change that perception and let people know that the majority of time spent by law enforcement officers is helping members of the community, not arresting people. There’s a reason why police departments across the country use the motto, “Protect and serve.”
The program also allows officers to receive feedback from the public in a friendly, encouraging environment.
Participants in the citizen’s academy will receive training similar to the training officers receive in their own training, with the exception of the physical training. Unlike sworn officer training, the entire course will be completed in about 30 hours. Local police are required by state law to have 40 hours of training each year, but LaGrange Police exceed that, undergoing 80 hours of training every year. In total, the combined police department staff underwent 17,843 hours of training in 2017.
Over the next nine weeks, Troup County News will follow along with the Citizens Police Academy and we encourage anyone interested to participate in the next program this fall.