Lynchburg police bring back, revamp citizens academy

Classes start on March 15

By Magdala Louissaint - Lynchburg Bureau Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va. - New officers will soon be patrolling the streets of Lynchburg. Seven people joined the force during a swearing-in ceremony Thursday afternoon. This comes as department leaders announce they want to revamp their citizens police academy. The program has been on hold for nearly two years.
Steven Wood, with the Lynchburg Police Department said the department's citizen’s academy ran for 26 years. But that came to an end last year. 

"The citizens police academy just got shelved for a while. We had some staffing issues we needed to work through, and we're still having staffing issues one of the things we needed to work through,” Wood, who is the community services coordinator, said. 

Now the academy is relaunching. The department's community action team, which is made up of six officers and two civilians, will do the majority of the teaching. 

"Most of the officers are experts in particular fields so that's going to be beneficial. It will be a one-stop shop,” Wood said.

"What we're trying to do is have a more hands-on approach and get the citizens more involved,” Sgt. Jeff Rater said. 

For six weeks next year, from March to April, participants will learn about the use of force, crisis negotiations and how a Taser works. The department is even bringing back the "Know Your Rights" and bodycam discussion.

“People have a lot of questions about interactions with police. So we want them to have that knowledge and be able to take some of that back,” Wood said.

But before community members can take in anything they've learned, the department wants the classroom to demographically represent the city's population. The department would like to see more African-Americans and younger people take part in the effort. They believe this will help improve police perception.

"And it gives them a chance really to understand and to walk in our shoes as police officers in our day-to-day duties,” Rater said.

Organizers are accepting applications. Classes will run on Thursday evenings from 6- 8:30 p.m., beginning March 15, at the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy located at 1200 Church Street.

To find out more about where to apply, click here

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