Registration has opened for the University of Connecticut Police Department’s annual Citizen’s Police Academy.
The Academy, which takes place on Tuesday nights for 11 weeks from September to November, provides UCPD with an opportunity to connect with members of the community they serve, UCPD Lt. Justin Gilbert said.
“The program allows for our department to meet with members of our community in an educational setting to discuss how and why we provide certain police services,” Gilbert said.
Some areas of policing that will be covered during the program include patrol procedures, narcotics, K9, the use of force and responding to active threats.
“There is always good dialogue about current issues and the course covers a variety of topics,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said there is usually a “good mix” of UConn students, faculty and staff and Mansfield community members in the program.
“(It) makes the class interesting getting the various perspectives on an issue,” Gilbert said.
UConn Director of the Office of Orientation Services Maria Sedotti said she participated in the Academy in 2016 to learn more about how a university campus police department operates and what kind of situations and challenges they face.
“As a participant, you get a glimpse into the police department and into the lives of the police officers who are protecting the university community by working with students, faculty and staff,” Sedotti said. “I enjoyed the experience tremendously and I enjoyed learning all the content that was covered.”
The program has been running since 2004, Gilbert said. Each year the department reevaluates the program and implements changes to make it more effective for participants.
“We try to cover a wide variety of topics that relate to our general procedures and also topics that cover current events,” Gilbert said. “We make adjustments to the subjects as needed based on feedback, changing laws or if we feel a different class would better suit the program.”
Gilbert said one of the most effective parts of the program every year is the ride along, where participants get to see first-hand how UCPD officers conduct patrols.
Sedotti was able to witness how police deal with intoxicated students during the drive along, she said.
“What I saw from being seated in the front of the police car was police work done with respect even though sometimes they do get resistance from students,” Sedotti said.
In the past few years, the Department has added more hands-on activities where participants are able to make choices in realistic scenarios including drug traffic stops, finding an armed person hiding in a building or determining if an arrest is needed. Sedotti said these activities were her favorite.
“We really got to experience what it was like to be the officer in these different situations that can and do happen,” Sedotti said.
Gilbert said the overarching goal of the Academy is to create a lasting, cooperative dynamic between the Department and the community.
“The main goal of the Citizen’s Police Academy is to increase understanding between police and our community members and develop working relationships that last beyond the program,” Gilbert said.
Sedotti said she recommends the program to colleagues and students.
“Whether they are in vehicles, riding bikes or walking on campus the UConn police are here to protect the campus community which is their primary focus,” Sedotti said. “I felt really good and secure about that after I completed the Academy…It was definitely worth my time.”
Those interested in applying for the program can do so at https://publicsafety.uconn.edu/CitizenPoliceAcademy. Any UConn student, faculty or staff member or Mansfield resident who is at least 18 years old can apply.
The academy will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday nights during the fall semester.