Last week, the Oro Valley Police Department congratulated almost 30 people for completing its citizen’s academy.

The academy, aimed at informing the public about what the department does through hands-on classes, allows participants to meet with officials from each department.

Presentations ranged from SWAT to K-9, from homicide to dispatch and from Drug Enforcement Agency to traffic operations.

Officer Jodi Stevens, who is the training coordinator for the department, organizes and runs the class, which started in 1996.

“The public safety in Oro Valley isn’t just because of what we do as police, it’s what the community does by being the eyes and ears for us,” Stevens said. “The goal was to educate the community on what we do and how we do it, so they are better able to participate in the community policing aspect of what we do.”

Every Tuesday night for 12 weeks, the class of 28 gathered in the department’s sub-station in the Oro Valley Marketplace for three hours where they were presented with the ins and outs of the department.

One of the first classes was about basic patrol, or “Cop 101,” as Lt. Chris Olsen put it.

The first video he showed was surveillance footage that showed two officers and two suspects. One of the suspects was being handcuffed and when one officer came over to assist, the suspect who wasn’t being handcuffed took out a gun and shot and killed the officers.

“Was that real?” someone in the class exclaimed.

It was very real and it very quickly put in the class members’ minds that during routine and mundane police duties, things can go from normal to deadly.

Throughout the classes, some officers would speak lightly of their duties and how they enjoy giving speeding tickets, while others told the class how everyone wants to run away when they hear gunfire, including police. But officers signed up to be the ones to run towards the gunfire.

Another officer got a little choked up explaining how day in and day out he strives to keep drunk drivers off the road, so he doesn’t have to be that officer who tells a family their son or daughter was seriously injured or killed in a DUI accident.

“Every week got better and better,” said Oro Valley resident Donna Lindquist. “It kept you totally engaged. It was very personal as they each told their stories.

“Taking this class makes an Oro Valley resident aware of all the proactive policing and the many specialized OVPD officer assignments that aren’t necessarily visible to the public.”

Along with in-class activities, people in the citizen’s academy were allowed to ride with an officer for about four hours on their shift.

“It was a good experience,” said Marlaina Dillon, who participated in the academy. “We actually caught a guy who did a hit and run. We had to go to Northwest Hospital because he was high on crack.”

Because of the high interest in the academy, the department is offering another opportunity to learn about the Oro Valley Police Department.

The Citizen Academy will begin Tuesday, Feb. 28 and continue every week until May 15.

Classes are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the department’s Tangerine substation.

The academy is free, but participants must be at least 18 years of age. To sign up, call Stevens at 229-2900 during business hours Monday through Friday. Space is limited.

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