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Citizens' Academy set to return

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SPRAY: Robert Heflin attempts to shoot pepper spray on a “suspect,” during the hands-on demonstration atthe Citizens’ Police Academy last fall.
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PRESSURE: Dawn Harvey learns how to find a pressure point to safely get a suspect to cooperate as HPDofficer Brian Double helps with the demonstration.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Last year, 20 Huntington citizens got to try on a Huntington Police Department badge as they shot pepper spray, tasers and an electronic gun connected to a simulator to gain a better understanding of how policing in Huntington works.

In an effort to build relationships with the community and let citizens experience how the HPD operates, the Citizen’s Police Academy is back, beginning Aug. 21. The program isn’t just about using police gear. The program provides an overview of criminal code, domestic violence, drug investigations, vehicle stops, use of force and other topics throughout the eight week program help each Wednesday from 6-9 p.m.

The deadline to sign up for the course, which begins Aug. 21, is July 26. The first 20 citizens to apply will have a chance to graduate on Oct. 9, and program organizer Capt. Chris McCutcheon said he learned from last year that there is a lot of interest in the class.

“The program went much better than we could have ever anticipated,” he said. “There wasn’t one week that we didn’t stay over to answer additional questions from participants. Participants were shocked that we had never done this before.”

HPD asked last year’s participants to fill out an evaluation after each class, so McCutcheon said this year’s program should be even more impactful.

“Based on their feedback we have adjusted certain topics to make them longer and made a few others a little shorter,” he said. “We think that this year is going to be great.”

Even though the program is geared toward teaching the community about the difficulty and procedure of law enforcement, McCutcheon said his favorite part was meeting people and engaging with the public.

“Since the conclusion of our last class, we run into the participants regularly,” he said. “They always come up and want to talk to us and ask us how things are going. These relationships would never have got started without this program.”

Participants will even get to shadow an officer as they patrol the city, something McCutcheon said is valuable given media portrayal of policing.

“People have this misconception of how police work is done, and TV shows don’t help us in this area,” he said. “With this opportunity however they can see how we really do things and why.”

Robert Heflin said he learned that police really have to be thinking ahead when they approach situations, especially regarding use of force. He said the program really opened his eyes. 

“Everything is a split second... I take my hat off to them. I really do,” he said. 

Interested citizens may obtain an application for attendance at the HPD. Applications are also available on the department’s Facebook page or city of Huntington website, www.huntington.in.us/city/police. Completed applications should be returned to the HPD before the July 26 deadline.

Any questions should be directed to Captain Christopher W. McCutcheon at 260-356-1400 extension 2013, or chris.mccutcheon@huntington.in.us.