A number of citizen's academy participants have ended up finishing the class, and putting on the badge in real life.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -
Less than a year ago, 22 year old Kim Ritter was just completing college, and not really sure which career path she'd pick. Then, she stumbled upon a citizen's police academy class at Spartanburg Public Safety. "I knew it was a dangerous job," she says. "But I wasn't really sure about all they did." The 13 week class, in place for more than a decade, gives interested residents an upclose look at the department, from forensics to investigations. "This is a way for them to find out what really goes on," says Captain Regina Nowak. "It's a real eye opener for people."
Ritter says she came into the academy with her own misconceptions. "You know, the public, we think, oh they just arrest people," she says. "But we never get to see them being the counselor, or the social worker. Officers do a lot more than just arrest people and I saw that."
Mauldin Police Chief Bryan Turner, who just started a citizen's police academy for his department this year, says the classes are enormously popular. "Within the first hour of putting the application out, we had people filling them out and turning them in," he says. Now, spaces for the spring class currently underway, are full. Turner thinks the interest comes from more residents being concerned about crime, and wanting to be part of the solution. "It trains our citizens to be more watchful," he says. "I think a long term benefit for us would be we actually have more voices in the community that speak out for us because they actually know what we're doing."
In Spartanburg, they're seeing another benefit. A number of citizen's academy participants have ended up finishing the class, and putting on the badge in real life. "I think we're averaging one person per class that we end up hiring as a police officer," says Nowak. "They think maybe I'd be interested in this, then they come through the citizen's academy and it lights that spark."
Count Kim Ritter as one who got hooked. Shortly after taking the class, she signed on with the Public Safety department as a uniformed officer. "I'm learning every day," she says. "The citizen's academy definitely motivated me to become a better citizen, and just a better person in general."