SPEEDWAY — When he was brought on as the police chief here in 2010, James Campbell wanted more collaboration between the community and the police force. As a result, the Citizens’ Police Academy was born.
Sarah Edie, administrative coordinator at the Speedway Police Station, says that two years in, the goal of community outreach has benefited both sides.
The 12-week course runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday nights.
“When Chief Campbell came on, his new focus had been community policing,” she said. “This is one of the programs that he’s found has been beneficial to communities and we’ve found over the course of the last four classes that it’s been an incredible tool for getting to know the community, letting them put faces with names, and they’re comfortable with us. It’s built a strong rapport.”
Applications are taken throughout the year from residents who want to learn what Speedway officers do. From those applicants, 25 people are chosen to participate in the academy. Over the course of the program, participants learn to fire a weapon and even drive a police car on the course that officers have to pass.
Applicants must be 18 or older. They must also either live in the community or have strong ties to it, be it working in Speedway or even shopping there consistently.
“People always call us when we’re having a bad day, but we like to see them on the good days too,” she said. “It’s been a great tool for us to build that relationship. It’s made people more comfortable with the police department, and I think it also helps us when their neighbors speak out. They’re able to be an advocate for the department, let others know that we’ll take care of them, they just have to let us know. People that have been through the class have been able to serve as advocates for us.”
Edie said class participants always seem to be surprised by the number of routine calls the department gets, helping people with problems such as finding raccoons under their deck to turning on a furnace.
“We’re trying to help the community in any way possible,” she said.
The class pays dividends for officers too, as they get to be seen in a different light.
“They love it because any chance they get to show off the cool things they do, they enjoy it,” Edie said. “Too often there’s a negative connotation with police officers and when they get to show what a positive factor they can be, it’s nice.”
Edie said the department is currently accepting applications for next year’s class. Applications may be picked up at the Speedway Police Station at 1410 N. Lynhurst Dr.