Taking Back the Community: Citizens Police Academy

WAVY-TV 10 Photo

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) -- Some Hampton Roads residents are going back to school, but this class is much different.  They are learning what it takes to be a police officer.

"I think everybody in the city should take this class," said Portsmouth resident Valerie Kelly.

Last year, Kelly and her husband signed up for the Citizens Police Academy.

“I learned things that I had no idea were going on in our city," added Newport News resident Elizabeth Lacroix.

This is a chance to pull back the curtain and see law enforcement from a new perspective.

"You need to know about all of this stuff," Kelly said.

"We just want them to come out and learn more about who we are, what we do," said Newport News Citizens Police Academy Coordinator Monica White.

Newport News residents Joe and Elizabeth Lacroix have been married a long time. "Yup 41 years," said Joe Lacroix.

They are not only partners in life, but also the graduating class.

"I was the Pres, she was the Vice Pres," Lacroix chuckled.

The Lacroixs were part of the of the 39th Newport News Citizens Police Academy.

"It's designed to let the public be aware of what the police department is all about," he added.

The Lacroixs signed up, because they wanted to know more about what makes the police department tick.

"Every night we came home we couldn’t believe we learned,” Elizabeth Lacroix said.  “We couldn’t believe that's happening in our city.”

Academies are starting all the time in Hampton Roads. The best part is they are free of charge.

"That's what is exciting for me, for people coming in unsure about police or scared of police,” White added.  “It gives them an opportunity to get an inside look and get some answers that they never got answered before."

The multi-week course features several different topics.

"For me one of the most exciting parts was the criminal investigation,” Elizabeth Lacroix said.  “They take you from the very beginning of a crime through the entire investigation."

"We had police officers that came in and talked to us about the gangs in Portsmouth," Kelly added.

"Probable cause or use of force are really hot topics for citizens,” White said.  “They want to know can an officer do certain things in the line of duty and who gives them permission to do things."

Students are also encouraged to do ride alongs and have a chance to spend the day at the police gun range.

"You get out there and you hold this weapon and it's like ‘oh my heavens,’" Lacroix said.

Most departments also have academies for teenagers and senior citizens.

Information on Area Academies

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