In an effort to strengthen the ties between police officers and the communities they serve, the Yale Police Department opened registration for its semi-annual Citizen’s Police Academy.
Last week, the department issued a release inviting students, faculty and staff, in addition to New Haven residents, to register. The program, now is in its eighth year of existence, centers on classes and demonstrations led by department officials, who give those enrolled a deeper look at the YPD’s day-to-day operations. Subjects explored include investigative services, patrol procedures, personal safety and emergency preparedness.
YPD Lieutenant Von Narcisse, who runs the academy, said he hopes it fosters a positive citizen-police relationship that can be critical to the department’s ability to fight crime.
“The program is designed to give a general history of the Yale Police Department and an overview of the services we provide to Yale and the greater New Haven community,” Narcisse said.
The department offers a similar program in the fall, but the spring term has been more popular in past years. Narcisse said the academy typically accepts between 20 and 30 people, and each year several applicants are placed on a waitlist.
Classes will begin on March 25, and will continue for six Tuesdays through the end of the term. Each individual class will run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. One such class will involve a presentation from the FBI and showcase the YPD’s bomb detection dog, according to Narcisse. He added that academy officials review surveys at the end of each term in order to determine what changes, if any, need to be made to the curriculum.
Narcisse said that one of his major goals is to raise awareness about what the YPD does and how local residents can contribute to its mission.
“All of the sessions contained a great mix of both interesting and educational information,” said one academy graduate, who was not named, according to the release. “I perceive the [YPD] as a much friendlier place than I thought.”
He also cited “rave reviews” from previous students in the academy for its ability to positively impact those interested in becoming more engaged with one of the city’s main police departments.
New Haven Police Department spokesman David Hartman said such programs can be important in police efforts to be transparent with its practices — though he added that some should stay discrete for the sake of safety.
“There are certain things that are not to be transparent and for very good reason,” he said.
Recently, under the guidance of Chief Dean Esserman, the NHPD has focused much of its attention on developing its community policing model through walking beats, in which officers patrol the same neighborhoods in order to develop relationships with residents.
Hartman added that the NHPD has hosted similar programs for years, mainly because of their ability to engage the public and open a constructive dialogue. Still, he said there are some concerns that must first be addressed.
“The problem is these are academies taught by police officers and people in the policing field,” Hartman said. “I think that the debate would be: If you try to include more and more people, would you be distracting from the duties of policing?”
He concluded that, on the one hand, the limited scale prevents these academies from making a significant impact on a large scale, but that such personnel issues are important.
The YPD headquarters, which academy enrollees tour during the program, is located at 101 Ashmun St.