Those curious about the internal workings of the city's police force are in luck.
Starting March 7, the Chattanooga Police Department will once again host its Citizens Police Academy to give civilians a better understanding of local law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Over the course of nine weeks, participants will hear from representatives from the Victim Services Unit, Crisis Intervention Team, Crime Prevention office, S.W.A.T. and more to learn about the realities of police culture.
"People are often shocked that what you see on TV is not the whole case, and they're actually surprised at everything we have to go through to do one case," said Sgt. Wayne Jefferson, with the Office of Community Outreach. "Overall, even people that come through who didn't like police leave with a positive attitude."
Part of the academy's goal is to foster a more understanding relationship between police and the community, said CPD spokeswoman Elisa Myzal. As such, each class is an open forum, with plenty of opportunity for participants to ask questions of law enforcement personnel.
Some of the questions Jefferson and Myzal said they've heard most frequently include: "Why are police officers shooting black people?" "Why don't we have more female or Hispanic officers on the force?" "What are we doing about speeders?" and "Why do you leave the body out during crime scenes?"
"We answer all questions," Jefferson said. "You may not like the answer, but we're going to answer them if we can."
While beneficial for citizens seeking answers, the open forum format also provides an excellent opportunity for officers to get a better understanding of the ongoing challenges within individual neighborhoods, enabling the police department to relocate its assets to the areas they are needed the most, if necessary, said Jefferson.
"Bottom line: Bad guys know [it's the cops] when a black-and-white car drives through with lights on. We don't see 90 percent of the stuff that's going on, but the people in the community do. They give us, a lot of time, a better understanding of how we can benefit certain areas of Chattanooga," he said.
Classes will be held on Thursday evenings from 6-8 p.m. in the CPD's training facility, located at 3200 Amnicola Highway. To apply, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit tinyurl.com/CPDCitizensPoliceAcademy. The deadline to apply is Feb. 25. There is no cost.
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