EPD safety course, citizen academy open for registration

Local residents still have time to register for two upcoming events that will be hosted wholly or in part by the El Dorado Police Department to raise awareness about Internet safety and to offer civilians an experiential look into the job that law enforcement officers do every day.

Parents' Night Out

Monday is the last day to sign up for Parents' Night Out, a free, Internet safety training course that will provide parents with tools and resources to help keep their children safe online.

Presented by the EPD and Children's Advocacy Center of South Arkansas, the course will be held at 6 p.m. on April 6 at the TAC House, 1151 N. West Ave.

The course will focus on parental controls, online gaming, "sextortion" and warning signs to aid in prevention.

To register for PNO or for more information, call the EPD at 870-881-4810 or the CACSA at 870-862-2272. Also, send an email to [email protected] or [email protected].

Citizens Police Academy

The EPD is also preparing for its upcoming Citizens Police Academy.

The nine-week course will begin April 11. Class size is limited to 20 participants and applications are due by 4 p.m. on April 5.

The class is free and open to the public.

EPD Chief Kenny Hickman said the size of the class will determine the location for classroom instruction and training.

"If the class size is on the small end, we'll have it here at the police department. If it's larger, we'll do it at (SouthArk - East Campus) like we did last year," Hickman explained.

Eleven students, including former Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer, graduated from the 2022 CPA. The largest CPA class was 26 students in 2016.

The CPA is broken into 10 classes that will be held over nine weeks and focus on a different topic each week.

The majority of the classes are scheduled from 6 until 9 p.m. each Tuesday, starting April 11.

One class -- voluntary firearms and bomb squad training -- is set from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 23, at the EPD's firing/training range on South Jackson Avenue.

Two classes -- MILO training and Criminal Investigations -- will end at 8 p.m. on April 25 and May 3, respectively.

MILO (Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives) is a training simulator that places participants in scenarios that police officers routinely face on the job.

The system is used for judgmental training and the application for use of force.

The CPA was launched in 2013 by former EPD Lt. Chris Lutman with enthusiastic support from former Chief Billy White and other officers in the department.

When Hickman was appointed police chief in late January of 2019, he said one of his first thoughts was the CPA, which, at the time, had not been held since 2017.

He said there was not enough time to prepare for a spring installment of the academy when he assumed his new position as police chief but relaunching the class was at the top of his to-do list as head of the EPD.

The CPA resumed in 2020 but after the class graduated, the academy was placed on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a 2022 reboot of the academy, the EPD is hoping to keep the ball rolling.

Hickman, who has been a CPA instructor focusing on Constitutional Law, said he has seen firsthand the impact the academy has had on its participants, students and instructors.

"To me, the primary benefit is for us to make a connection in the community," Hickman said.

"There are a lot of people we never interact with because we never see them and we might not otherwise get to know them," he continued.

Hickman said students get to learn what police work "really is, rather than what's being talked about."

"It helps to explain what the laws really are, why we do certain things because sometimes in police contact, there are certain things that officers do that, sometimes, people misunderstand," said Hickman.

One common misconception, he said, is that occupants of a vehicle do not have to exit the vehicle if they are asked to during a traffic stop.

"They most certainly do. An officer has the authority to ask someone to get out or stay inside a vehicle," Hickman said. "In the Citizens Police Academy, we go through a traffic stop and you learn how to approach a vehicle, what to look for."

He said the first two CPA classes involve classroom instruction and set the foundation for laws that pertain to arrests, detainment, search and seizure, etc.

"You get a little bit of understanding, overall, of the law," the police chief said. "Then, we get into the hands-on stuff but nothing that puts anyone in a compromising situation or places them in danger."

He reiterated that firearms training is optional for CPA participants on April 29, adding that lunch will be served during the class.

In addition to learning how to conduct a traffic stop and other duties of patrol officers, CPA students will also learn how to investigate a crime scene and conduct a narcotics investigation.

Emergency dispatchers will also provide details about their job, including how to handle 911 calls.

Former CPA students have touted the benefits of the class.

One former student, a local woman who lost her adult son to gun violence in the 2000s, signed up for the inaugural CPA and said she gained valuable insight into how the EPD investigated her son's homicide and into police work in general.

Another benefit of the CPA is that some graduates went on to become full-time officers with the EPD after successfully completing the necessary testing and training to become certified officers.

During a graduation ceremony on May 30, students will be served dinner, receive a T-shirt and certificate of completion and have the opportunity to provide feedback about the academy.

"It's very rewarding and it's something that we look forward to. We make friends during that time and that's very important," said Hickman. "We're people in the community, too, and we want to have it safe for our families and everyone else's."

To be eligible for the CPA, applicants must:

Be at least 18 years old.

Live or work within El Dorado city limits.

Have no prior felony or violent misdemeanor arrests.

Have had no arrests within the past five years.

Commit to participating in at least 70% of CPA classes.

Undergo a criminal background check.

There are no minimum physical requirements to participate in the course and students will not be required to "do anything they do not wish to."

The CPA does not certify participants to be law enforcement officers.

For more information about the CPA or to request an application to enroll, call Lt. Andrew Russell at 870-881-4810. Applications must be submitted with valid, state-issued photo identification.