PARKERSBURG - A group of citizens got the chance to see how the Parkersburg Police Department operates during the Citizens Police Academy.
The program, which was designed to give local citizens a look into the workings of the police department, wrapped up Monday evening with a mock trial presentation and a small graduation ceremony.
With weekly classes over a 10-week period, 24 local residents got to see aspects of police work in the city, including how the department is administered, patrol operations, investigations, traffic stops, use of force, prisoner processing, how drug crimes are handled, firearms, and driving.
Photo by Brett Dunlap
Participants in the Citizens Police Academy class completed a 10-week course with weekly classes on police work and how the Parkersburg Police Department does its job.
Monday night Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell, the former police chief and a former magistrate, led the group through a mock trial of a person charged with driving under the influence. People read from a script, playing the participants in a trial.
Newell would stop the play from time to time to explain court procedure, why objections were made and other information that might come up during a trial.
''We hope the people get accurate information,'' said Sgt. Greg Collins, public information officer for the Parkersburg Police Department. ''What we have tried to do here and what we have told them from the very beginning is we are going to present all of the facts about our department.
''If you don't like us when we are done, at least you will make an educated opinion about us. We are not going to try to sway people or win fans. We are going at this being as transparent as we can.''
The department did similar classes in 2004 and 2005. It was a priority for Chief Joe Martin to start the classes again this year.
Participants got the chance to ride along with an officer, visit the firearms range, do a driving simulator, observe the K-9 program and interact with the department's narcotics officers, Collins said.
In the beginning, participants filled out a survey on what they thought the police department was able to handle. Collins said many thought there were more officers on a shift than there really were.
This helped police understand why people thought police should be able to respond to more calls more quickly than they are.
''We wanted to give them the information and let them make their own decision,'' Collins said. ''We hope they would become our friends and become our eyes and ears.''
The class had 24 participants with an average attendance of 20 each week.
''That is really good as people have personal lives, jobs and are busy a lot,'' Collins said. ''For those people to have that good of attendance throughout is very satisfying.
''We had great attendance and this group kept wanting to know more and more about the department which we were thrilled about.''
The class signed a thank you card and bought fruit baskets for the department.
Comments in the card thanked the officers for their time and what they were able to teach as well as the job they do.
''Thank you for everything you do to make our community safe,'' wrote Donna Hibbs.
The people involved in the class feel like they have a better understanding of the job local police have to do.
''They gave us a lot of information on what they were doing,'' said Jay Cheuvront. ''We also had a good time on the ride-along.''
His wife, Nina, was in the class. The couple spent their 45th wedding anniversary Monday night participating in the class.
''The police are very professional,'' Nina Cheuvront said. ''The officer I was with (during the ride-along) was very good.''
The Cheuvronts would like to see the Wood County Sheriff's Department do something similar as well as have the class visit the regional jail.
Levi Little said it was interesting to see the officers at work doing their jobs.
''I really got to learn a lot about the equipment and its uses,'' he said.
Police officers discussed the types of fingerprint powder and how a Taser worked.
''I really enjoyed learning about how they do their routes, how they plan around situations and how they use their equipment,'' Little said. ''It was all really interesting.''
The Parkersburg Police Department is looking into the possibility of doing another class later this year, possibly in the fall.