Park City police highlight the reality of law enforcement work through Citizens Academy
Program introduces the public to topics like traffic stops, use-of-force continuum
When might a police officer need to use force, perhaps even deadly force? And is investigating a crime scene really like it is on television or in the movies?
The Park City Police Department is preparing to seat another class of the Citizens Academy, a program that is designed to introduce the public to the inner workings of law enforcement. It will be the second annual class since a pause during the coronavirus pandemic, and the 13th overall.
The police see the Citizens Academy as a program that provides an opportunity for the agency to explain law enforcement work to a public that may not understand the intricacies of the profession. Some in the public may learn about police work through movies or television dramas, but the Citizens Academy over the years has attempted to instead illustrate the day-to-day duties of a local police officer.
Terry Knechtel, a longtime Park City police officer and the program manager for the Citizens Academy, said the course, importantly, provides “transparency from the Police Department to the public.”
“People get exposure from what they watch on TV and see in movies. I think it’s entertaining,” he said, adding, “We certainly can’t solve a crime in an hour like they do in the movies.”
The syllabus for the Citizens Academy includes a series of key topics in law enforcement. Some of the topics expected to be covered include traffic stops, the often-related issues of gangs and graffiti, police weapons, the use-of-force continuum and the use of canine officers. Other topics that may be covered include dispatch operations, the corrections system, the criminal justice system and SWAT operations.
“It allows the citizens to come in and experience police work,” he said.
The Citizens Academy also could cover several topics involving the broader field of emergency services, such as emergency preparedness, firefighting and emergency medical services.
The program is continuing in an era of deep-rooted questions nationally about law enforcement, including the movement to defund police departments or reimagine their role in crime fighting. The local agency has not encountered the same level of scrutiny, and there have not been widespread calls for cuts to the police budget in Park City or a review of the operations of the department.
It is also seeking a new class at a time when Parkites overwhelmingly see the community as safe, the recently released results of a survey conducted on behalf of City Hall that covered a wide range of municipal issues showed.
The Citizens Academy is scheduled to start May 3. The course runs on Wednesdays for 11 weeks starting at 6 p.m. at the Park Avenue police station. The sessions typically last 2 ½ hours and involve instructors from the ranks of law enforcement and emergency services. Someone may miss two sessions and still graduate.
Someone must be a U.S. citizen and not have a criminal background other than minor traffic offenses to participate. They also must be at least 18. Up to 15 people will be selected for the class.
More information and applications are available on the City Hall website, http://www.parkcity.org. The direct link to the Citizens Academy is: https://www.parkcity.org/departments/police/citizen-police-academy. Applications are also available from Knechtel or at the police station. Contact Knechtel through police dispatch at 435-615-3600.
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