Many times the success of local law enforcement relies on the instincts and eyes of average citizens reporting suspicious behavior or providing necessary information to solve or prevent crimes.
The Decatur Police Department is once again giving citizens the chance to become a part of their active patrol through the 2013 Citizen Police Academy (CPA) program.The 12-week program will meet 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. every Tuesday starting Feb. 19. The class, which is free, meets at the Police Department and other locations, such as the firing range. It also includes ride-alongs with officers. Participants must be 21 or older. A criminal background check is also conducted on participants.
Since the program began more than four years ago, more than 100 people have completed the program. Upon completion of the program, graduates receive certificates and are actively able to assist in patrolling the streets of Decatur. In the last year, the program received its own patrol vehicle.
“We do patrol, we hand out tickets to people parked unlawfully in handicap spots, we raise funds for the department,” said CPA President Wayne Watts. “But we are unarmed. We just call an officer if we see something.”
Decatur Police Sgt. Delvon Campbell has been instrumental in leading the program ever since Police Chief Rex Hoskins suggested it to him several years ago.
“People always want to help,” Campbell said. “This is a great way for them to help. They are also trained in emergency response. If a natural disaster occurs, they will be ready to assist.”
Graduates of the academy help provide better relationships between the police and the citizens while at the same time making the city safer by being proactive rather than reactive to crime.
“When they do patrol, if they see someone with a garage door left open, they’ll go talk to the homeowner,” Campbell said. “An open garage is an invitation to burglary.
“Also, at this time of year, a lot of people start their cars and leave them running, unlocked to warm up while they go back inside. A lot of cars are stolen this way.
“We stress for them to be the eyes and ears of the department. We want the community to become more aware of what we are doing and get involved.”
He said the favorite part for most participants is the firearms training at the local gun range. He said it was quite a sight to see an 80-plus-year-old woman firing shots at the range.
“Gun safety and proper training is the best way to prevent gun violence.”
Participants receive instruction on a wide range of law enforcement topics, including Texas penal code, use of force, criminal investigations, patrol procedures, juvenile procedures, emergency driving, crime scene, narcotics, special response teams and firearm safety.
“It’s a lot of fun, and we’re looking for more people to help us,” said CPA member Larry Brown.
“We hope to get someone out on patrol every day,” Watts said. “The more people see us, the better protected our city will be.”
To learn more or register, go to www.decaturtxcpaaa.org or call Watts at (940) 577-2288 or call the Decatur Police Department at (940) 627-1500.