One of the law enforcement community support tools includes what they call a “Citizen’s Academy.” They come in all shapes depending on the size of the agency and provide citizens with an up close and personal view of how they function. You get to meet the sworn officers – they’re the ones with the guns - paid civilians and volunteers who all make it work. Classes are free to citizens and even include complimentary food and beverages.
Having graduated from the Tampa FBI Citizen’s Academy as well academies hosted by the Pinellas and Pasco County Sheriff’s offices during the past four years, I had become a little jaded and expected something a bit less sophisticated with the Pinellas Park PD. The big guys have the big budgets along with all the gadgets and toys needed to impress and amaze the citizenry. My introductory class on Tuesday night immediately sent my mind off in a different direction when I mentally drew a line in the sand between county and community policing when we were warmly greeted by Pinellas Park Mayor Sandra Bradbury and Police Chief Doreen Thomas who, by the way, shattered the glass ceiling long ago for women occupying the city’s number one law enforcement job. The “all-in-the-family” atmosphere was a clear departure from the larger agencies where the top cop might not know the name of an officer’s spouse, children or favorite sports team.
My original contact, Officer Adam Geissenberger, happily enjoying his recent promotion to Sergeant while lamenting his move out of Training Services, opened the class and introduced his replacement Officer Lauren Letona who would take over Class 22 the following week. We were given a brief orientation on what we would see and do over the next eight weeks followed by a tour of the facility. In the weeks ahead, we’ll look forward to evenings learning about communications, criminal investigation, firearms and use of force, DUI enforcement and investigation, traffic enforcement, SWAT and K-9 services. There would be plenty of hands-on activity, too. That got everyone’s attention.