For the first time since the pandemic began, the township police department has resurrected its citizen’s police academy program to give the public insight into how officers work, with classes beginning on Thursday, Oct. 13.
“The citizen’s police academy was something that we brought into the department several years back, around 2013 roughly,” said Det. Robert Jones, who heads the program.
Jones previously worked for the Riverside Township police, whose academy program was adopted by the detective for Deptford.
“The citizen’s police academy up there was very successful,” he noted. “So, I adopted that program there and we brought it here. You have to be 18 years old (to participate). We generally prefer residents of Deptford Township. As long as you don’t have a lengthy criminal history, we’d like to have you.”
The program will span seven weeks, with each week providing different instruction. The first, according to Jones, will focus on the framework of police work, which he dubbed “the bill of rights,” and participants will be given a tour of the police station. One week will focus on forensics aspects of police work; the last will enable participants to ride along with an officer on active patrol.
Graduates of the police academy do not become officers, but the township department does see the program as a possible recruitment tool.
“Just this past year, we held a career open house in which we recruited, I think, about 24 potential law-enforcement candidates,” said officer Sean Gambale. “Several of them have reached out to us about joining the citizen’s police academy …
“It’s not just an educational thing,” he added. “But it’s also an exploration thing for possible people looking for a career in law enforcement.”
“I like to think we’re constantly educating the public,” said Gambale. “… While we’re doing our jobs to the best of our ability, they can now see things the way we do, or vice versa.”