Raleigh Report

Raleigh creates police academy for residents

rwillett@newsobserver.com

Amid heightened police scrutiny, the Raleigh Police Department is offering residents a chance to put themselves in police officers’ shoes.

The Raleigh Police Department this April will launch the city’s first-ever Citizens Police Academy, a 10-week training course residents can take to learn more about police training. Police Chief Cassandra Deck Brown announced the program’s creation on Tuesday at the City Council meeting, saying the course would “provide a more effective level of communication between us and the community.”

The city plans to select between 20 and 25 applicants to participate in the course, which aims to give residents a glimpse of how Raleigh police officers are trained. Police plan to hold the 10-week course on Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m., starting April 6. The course offers participants the chance to ride along with police, learn about crime scene processing and use firearms in a simulator, among other things.

“This is a chance to get involved and understand police work in this city,” Councilman Corey Branch said at Tuesday’s meeting, addressing the public.

Raleigh isn’t the only local police department to hold a training academy for residents. Towns such as Cary and Knightdale also offer citizen training programs.

Raleigh’s announcement comes as the latest in a series of actions city leaders have taken to improve police relations with the public since last February, when a Raleigh officer shot and killed a young black suspect in Southeast Raleigh. Police said the officer, D.C. Twiddy, was defending himself from the suspect, Akiel Denkins, but some in the community believe Twiddy shot Denkins while he was fleeing.

Since then, residents and groups like the Raleigh Police Accountability Community Task Force and ACLU have lobbied city leaders to create more oversight for the department – specifically with the creation of an independent panel to review controversial police actions.

The council hasn’t created the panel. But it has bought cameras for police to wear while on-duty and started requiring officers to obtain written consent to search residents. Chief Brown and Mayor Nancy McFarlane have also held events throughout the city where they asked residents to come talk to police officers and air their concerns.

“The Citizens Police Academy is one response to the community’s question about the department’s transparency and accountability during the Face-to-Face meetings that were held in late 2015/early 2016,” police spokeswoman Laura Hourigan wrote in an email.

It’s unclear how much the city will pay to host the academy courses. Hourigan said the costs are minimal, “since the subjects that will be presented are currently taught in the police academy and in-service training sessions.”

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

How to apply

Raleigh residents interested in applying for Raleigh’s new Citizens Police Academy can go to the city’s website, raleighnc.gov, or contact Sherry Hunter at 919-996-1586 or sherry.hunter@raleighnc.gov. Applications will be accepted Feb. 27 through March 10. The police department plans to conduct background checks on applicants, who must be 21 years old and live or work in Raleigh to participate.

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