EL DORADO — The El Dorado Police Department is accepting applications for the 2017 installment of its Citizens Police Academy.
The 10-week course will begin on May 2, with sessions convening from 6 until 8 p.m. each Tuesday.
The class is free, and the deadline to submit applications is 4 p.m. on April 18. Class size will be 20 - 30 people.
The EPD began the academy three years ago to offer citizens an inside look into the many facets of law enforcement.
“By sharing this information and demonstrating areas of police work, citizens will be able to understand the functions of our agency and also how we hold ourselves accountable for decisions we make,” said Sgt. Chris Lutman, EPD community relations supervisor and coordinator of the class.
Lutman said the objective of the class aligns with the mission Police Chief Billy White has laid out for the police department: to build better community relations and build trust with citizens.
“Chief White continues to direct this agency in a direction of old-school policing, which involves foot patrols, changing the vehicle fleet to black-and-whites and better community policing,” Lutman said.
During the 10-week academy, each class session will focus on a different topic, providing participants with a full-range view of the inner-workings of the police department.
Participants are able to fire weapons that officers use at the firing range, participate in K-9 training, and help investigate mock crime scenes.
Since launching the Citizens Police Academy, Lutman said the EPD has consistently met its goal of drawing participants that represent a cross-section of the community, including different races, ages and genders.
He said the class is designed for a variety of perspectives, from the aspiring police officer to the person who may hold misconceptions about law enforcement officers.
“This career field is interesting due to the fact that one police officer across the country can make a serious mistake, and many in the public perceive that all officers are bad,” Lutman said.
“We obviously know that’s not the case, but at the El Dorado Police Department, we want to communicate to the public that there are measures in place to deal with the decisions we make, whether right or wrong,” he continued.
He said the class is also designed for “the citizen who lives in denial that the things we deal with are actually happening in El Dorado.”
Several academy alumni have described the class an “eye-opener” in helping them gain a better understanding of what police officers experience each day.
Through the academy, the EPD has also been able been able to expand its ranks of uniformed personnel.
At least two alumni have gone on to work for the police department, and Lutman said a third has signed up for the next round of Civil Service exams, which are scheduled for the police and fire departments on April 3, 4 and 5.
Participants are not certified officers upon the completion of the class, Lutman said.
A graduation ceremony will be held following the 10 weeks, and participants will be awarded certificates for completing he class.
Background checks will be conducted for applicants, who must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the class.
Applicants must be at least 18 and live or work in El Dorado.
Applicants who have been convicted of felonies or serious misdemeanors are prohibited from taking the course.
“We are excited about the things to come to this city … The Citizens Police Academy has obtained support from the community, which is greatly appreciated,” Lutman said.
Applications are available at the front desk of EPD headquarters or by emailing Lutman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, call Lutman at 870-881-4820.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.