Like many of you, I have occasionally served on Prince William County budget committees and the occasional Task Force. I had the pleasure of serving on the Public Safety Strategic Goal Task Force a couple of years ago. I learned quite a bit about our Policemen, Firemen, Emergency Medical Techs, and the process that supports them. I remembered this experience when I later served on a budget committee. Clearly, public safety is one of Government's prime responsibilities to its citizens. My experience left me with a desire to learn more should I again be called to serve.
While looking for resources to learn more about public safety, I came across the Prince William County Police Department Citizen Police Academy. I enrolled and just finished Week 4 of the 12 week program. The curriculum covers all aspects of the Police Department from "cops on the beat" to SWAT Teams (and everything in between). You know, you can watch "cop shows" on TV in the evening or you can attend the Citizens Police Academy, hang out with the "real deal," and hear how it's really done. I recommend the latter. The presenters have to a man and woman impressed me as true professionals who make those TV cops look like... well... "actors."
The Citizens Police Academy is held at 13101 Public Safety Drive, Nokesville, VA. It's a very private, beautiful location and a nice drive to get there.
While the entire program is impressive, two things stood out:
1. I can't count the number of times the different presenter's mentioned that you "don't lie to Chief Dean." He may give a police officer a chance to pay for a mistake if he or she admits it, one lie and you're off the force.
2. The guys and gals who have presented so far love their jobs on the Prince William County Police Department and they love the Chief. I've read a lot of Fortune Magazine reviews about "best places to work." They always cover commercial companies. I'm guessing that if they included Police Departments in the survey (or, at least "our" Police Department), Prince William County would come out pretty close (or if not at) the top of the list.
I highly recommend the Prince William County Police Department Citizens Police Academy to any County Citizen with the time available to attend the 12 three hour evening (6:00 to 9:00) sessions.
A few "fun facts":
1. There's no upper age limit to apply to become a Prince William County Police Officer. If you pass the physical and the extensive background check, you have a shot.
2. Every session starts with a buffet (sandwiches, chips, drinks, etc.). That makes attendance easy as you don't have to worry about the logistics of slipping in a meal before class.
3. "Donuts" aren't allowed anywhere on the Police Academy Grounds at any time (danish and pastries are "ok").
4. You don't lie to the Chief (oh, I mentioned that before... but its such a strong part of the culture on our County Police Department that I thought I'd mention it again).
Next week's class is being replaced by optional attendance at the Prince William County Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association Memorial and Tribute Service to Fallen Law Enforcement Officers who have lived or served in our County. It's Tuesday, May 10th at 7:00 PM at the Dr. A. J. Ferlazzo Building, 15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22191. It's open to the public. I'll be there.
I'll never look at a cop the same again... but I will walk up and thank him or her for their service. I look forward to serving on a future budget or public safety committee armed with new information so I may go to bat for these guys and gals!
Did I mention you don't lie to the Chief?