Seven weeks is all a Medford resident or business owner would need to learn about the police department and what each division does on a daily basis.
A cooperative effort between Police Chief Richard Meder and Lieutenant Jason Deroian birthed the department’s first Citizen Police Academy to show residents and Medford business owners how the department and policing works.
“Our hope is to really not just lecture to them, but become more of a hands-on thing,” Meder said. “Simulated traffic stops, taking them to central communications in Westampton for the 9-1-1 system, use of force demonstrations and how we’re trained for that, and to basically put them in a position of what it is like to be a police officer in this day and age.”
Deroian said anyone 18 and older can apply to the academy as the citizen recruits will not be subject to the same strenuous physical activities as those in the regular police academy.
Senior citizens are welcome to apply.
Applications are available on the department’s website and must be hand-delivered by March 25 for consideration. Following background checks, the program has a tentative start date of April 22.
An attempt to start the academy in the fall was made, but the department did not receive enough applicants to sustain the seven-week course, likely attributed to summer and winter vacations.
Hopes are to have 20 participants in the program.
Ideas bounced between Meder and Deroian on creating the academy over the past two years to 18 months, and it was a personal agenda item Meder sought to do prior to becoming chief.
“It gives them an insight to the type of people who are in the agency,” Meder mentioned. “Most of the officers live in the community or immediately surrounding it. We recently instituted an employee spotlight and we show a biography of an officer, who they are, their likes and everything else.
“The academy demonstrates who we are as police and also people.”
Participation in the academy is voluntary and free. Prospective participants would need to defer questions to their agency or school regarding if the academy supplements volunteer service hours.
If an academy member does not wish to take part in a simulation, they are welcome to observe while instructors detail what is occurring.
Most simulations are done at the department headquarters on Union Street, away from actual crime interaction with the public.
Applications are anticipated to be Medford Township residents or business owners because the program’s intentions are to allow them a peek inside how the department oversees the township’s safety and operations, and how local law enforcement works.
“We want business owners to have an understanding of how we work,” Meder said. “Every department works differently with their own policies and procedures.”
Officers from other in-house bureaus such as traffic safety, canine and community relations units will be present at various classes to show participants how they carry out the duties of their respective areas and the hurdles they face.
The hope is for the academy to be an annual program as it gains more interest throughout the area and continues to receive applications.
“It gives us the opportunity to show ourselves in a different position,” Deroian explained. “People are calling us when they are in need of something, but that individual sees us in that capacity. This allows for everyone to see what’s behind the uniform, and give them a better understanding that we’re not just here to serve, but to become an integral part of society.“