By Daniel Silliman
The Clayton County Police Department has graduated its second Citizens Police Academy class, and already, more than half of the seats are filled for the next one.
At a ceremony late last week, Police Chief Jeff Turner said the program was "better than I had hoped it would be," and declared the success a sign the community is willing to work with the department to reduce crime.
"Together," Turner said, "we can solve and resolve the problems that plague this community. We can't do that without you."
The program lasts 12 weeks, with one session each week on Thursday nights. It walks students through 12 facets of law enforcement work, exposing them to the job the police officers do every day.
"In our occupation," Turner said, "we take lives and liberty, which is a huge responsibility for the young men and women who do this job. We want you to have a little more insight into what we do and how we do it."
James Wood said he took the class because he had always admired police and thought, at one point, about trying to become an officer. He learned, he said, a lot about the day-to-day work of the police officers.
"I learned the laws," Wood said. "I learned when to shoot and when not to shoot. I learned that [police officers] have less than a second to think."
Adam Montgomery, a criminal justice student at Clayton State University, said he enrolled in the Citizens Police Academy on the advice of his professor. He's interested in trying to join one of the police departments in the area when he graduates in 2009, and he wanted to get a better idea of what it was like to wear a badge, and what the various career courses would be on a force.
"I actually saw a lot more options than I thought I would," Montgomery said. "I really love the K-9 unit."
Capt. Greg Dickens said he thought the highlight of the class came when some women were taught to respond to an attacker. The attacker was played by Officer Tim Owens, and as soon as he opened the door, the exercise was taken very seriously.
"There were three women on top of him. They're choking him and they're beating him ,and I'm like, 'OK, it's just for play,'" Dickens said.
Police officials urged the academy graduates to tell others about the class and to use their new knowledge as advocates for the police department and community-oriented policing.
"Don't keep this knowledge to yourself," Turner said. "Take this knowledge and do something with it."
For more information about the free 12-week program, or to enroll, call the Clayton County Police Department's Community Affairs Unit at (770) 473-3935.