Park City police work: not like cop shows or the movies
A day with the canine unit. Another day at the shooting range. And some time in a classroom learning about evidence gathering.
Someone in Park City does not need to be preparing for a career in law enforcement to have the opportunity to learn about police work. The Park City Police Department is preparing to select the next class of the Citizens Academy, a program that is designed for civilians to delve into the everyday duties of a Park City police officer.
The Citizens Academy, an annual class, attracts people from lots of different professional and personal backgrounds. The class members typically are not considering careers in law enforcement and instead want to immerse themselves in a variety of topics related to police work. Others, though, could see the program as a step toward a career in some sort of law enforcement field.
Terry Knechtel, the police officer who organizes the Citizens Academy, said the program introduces the class to what he considers real-life policing. That, he said, is different than the fictionalized police work shown on television programs and movies.
“They see it on TV or the movies. We want to dispel any of the stereotypes,” Knechtel said.
Some of the topics the Citizens Academy is scheduled to cover include the operations of dispatch, traffic laws and how traffic stops are managed, investigating crime scenes, the related topics of gangs and graffiti as well as the SWAT operations. The program also covers police weapons, the use of force, the efforts to prepare for emergencies and the work of other emergency agencies like the Park City Fire District.
Knechtel said there are myths about law enforcement that are pervasive in the public. He said the Citizens Academy assists as the Police Department attempts to counter those thoughts.
One myth he describes centers on the number of officers who respond to a case when, to a member of the public, it seems that the response is heavy. Knechtel said the response of multiple officers is meant to ensure the officers and the public are safe.
“Why do we need two officers or more on a call. That sort of thing,” he said, describing the questions raised by the public and adding that sometimes the officer could be responding to a critical incident.
The Citizens Academy draws from area law enforcement and emergency agencies for the individual classes. Much of the work is done in a classroom setting as speakers describe the operations of their agencies. Some of the other classes, described as interactive, involve scenarios that a police officer may encounter.
Two of the notable sessions during each Citizens Academy are a visit to a shooting range for a demonstration of police weaponry and a demonstration of the work of a canine unit. A law enforcement officer, typically Knechtel, is outfitted in a so-called bite suit for the canine demonstration.
The demonstrations and the classroom work increase Police Department transparency, Knechtel said.
Someone must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 to be eligible for the Citizens Academy. They also must live in Park City or surrounding Summit County. The program does not accept anyone with a criminal record beyond minor traffic offenses and background checks are required. They must sign a waiver.
Classes are held each Wednesday at the Park Avenue police station starting at 6:30 p.m. and lasting at least two hours. The program may also schedule an all-day session on an undetermined Saturday. The Citizens Academy runs from May 1 until July 10. The program is free.
The classes typically attract a cross-section of Parkites with a variety of interests. Some of the people who apply may be businesspeople on Main Street wanting to learn about crime prevention while others could be attorneys who are especially interested in the information provided about the criminal justice system.
Applications are available on the City Hall website. Contact Knechtel through the dispatch line at 615-5500 for more information.
The application deadline is April 24.
Applications may be mailed to: Park City Police Department
P.O. Box 1480
Park City, UT
Attention Officer Terry Knechtel
Applications may also be dropped off at the Park Avenue police station.
Jennifer McDonald, a self-described lifelong Republican, was selected as the Summit County Republican Party chair last week.