Middletown Police Department held its second eight-week Citizens Police Academy session this fall to teach about the ins and outs of the functions of the police. The goal was to close the gap between citizens and police, so they have a true understanding of how each thinks and operates.
Videos of police often go viral on Twitter, giving the public only a snapshot of what they experience on the line of duty, but Middletown offers its citizens an inside look that might make them rethink what they see online.
Middletown Police Department held its second eight-week Citizens Police Academy session this fall to teach about the ins and outs of the functions of the police.
The goal was to close the gap between citizens and police, so they have a true understanding of how each thinks and operates.
Cpl. Dakevis Howard ran the course and was happy to see that gap close.
“The media makes that gap extremely big because the media only wants to put out stuff that will get people to watch and be interested,” he said. “This class actually lets the people see exactly what we go through and deal with.”
The Middletown Transcript was invited to come and get a first-hand perspective.
A few of the classes were interactive, but many of them were lecture style.
Police officers and topic experts from all over the state came to talk about traffic reconstruction, drug recognition, probation, criminal investigations, victim services and vaping dangers.
The most interesting part: learning officers are trained to profile.
This means they are trained to patrol neighborhoods to know what is usual or unusual behavior, including the cars people have, what kind of cars pass through and what people look like in those areas. When they see something out of the normal, they know to ask the people what they are doing or why they are in the area.
Starting in early October, the class met every Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. It was rare when the class got out on time. Half the class would always have so many questions and be engaged in the content that often presentations would go over time.
“Three hours was never enough,” Howard said. “They always wanted to stay longer.”
The class went to a 911 dispatch center, saw a K-9 demonstration, learned about the dangers vaping from a doctor and took part in a simulated 911 call shooting scenario at a gun range, the favorite class.
After getting to stand behind a gun during a simulation, people understood how someone becomes so focused on the person in front of them when guns are involved, it’s hard — or nearly impossible — to see what else is going on around them.
The biggest takeaway: what we see online is not the whole story.
During graduation night, Lynn Wilson said she learned so much from the class about the survival mindset officers are in and how difficult their job can be.
“YouTube videos don’t even begin to show us what these officers go through on a daily basis,” she said.
Surinder Sharma, a Bear resident, agreed what is typically on television or online is not the full picture.
“We are grossly misled by the social media clips against the police during arrests and glamorous images of police officers in cinema and television dramas,” Sharma said.
The idea came from Chief Robert Kracyla, who came from Seaford Police Department in March where they do a similar program.
“It was me taking the chief’s idea, and turning it into something real,” Howard said.
Students had the option to go on a police ride-along that occurred outside of regular class time.
People seemed to enjoy something from every class, even if some of the lectures weren’t as exciting as standing behind an unloaded gun. Some wished they could take the class again, and many seemed excited to get their friends and family involved in the next session.
Howard said the chief wants to start the next session at the end of January, but it has not been confirmed. Follow Middletown police on Facebook or call the department at 302-376-9950 to find out more.