Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Citizens Get Police Training Program Promotes Empathy between Cops, Residents

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Citizens Get Police Training Program Promotes Empathy between Cops, Residents

Article excerpt

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- Sgt. Steve Corbitt stands behind a podium

in a small, white room decorated with freshly hung signs that

say "compassion," "integrity," "initiative" and

"self-improvement."

"I think that we succeeded. I know that we did," he says to the

class in front of him. They immediately applaud.

Corbitt is the head of a program in Jacksonville Beach called

the Citizen Police Academy, which had its first of eight

meetings Aug. 6.

The point of the academy, he said, is to allow "citizens of the

community to come into the police department to learn who we are

and what we do." Another goal is to give citizens the

opportunity to see firsthand that the department is trying its

hardest to work under the code spelled out by those signs on the

walls.

The academy covers the organization and undertakings of the

police department in depth, and provides participants with,

among other things, information on K-9 squads, community

patrolling and radar usage. They are also allowed to ride

alongside officers.

The program is a large part of an effort to bring citizens of

the community closer to the officials and officers who help run

it.

The idea was to "open the door and let the community see every

aspect of our department," Corbitt said. "Do it top-notch or

don't do it at all," he said of the program's goals.

The academy was the idea of Police Chief Bruce Thomason, to

show city residents that the police department cares about the

work its members do. He also said that he wanted the program to

help clear up many common misconceptions that citizens have

about police work.

On Sept. 24, the first class, consisting of 23 Jacksonville

Beach residents, graduated with high praise. …

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