In a large room, 20 people age 21 to 73 gather together. They are all here to learn about what they say is the most important organization in Boulder.
The Citizen’s Police Academy meets every Wednesday for three and half months to gain a better understanding about the philosophies and real life events of the Boulder Police Department.
“The group is here to promote awareness to the citizens of Boulder about what the police department does,” the coordinator, Jeanne Gilbert, said.
The academy of Boulder was founded in 1992 by Pat Hanket, who has since retired from the police department in 2004. Soon after, Gilbert took on the duties of coordinator and has been running the program ever since.
“The history of the Citizen’s Police Academy starts in the United Kingdom in 1977,” Gilbert said. “It then came to Orlando, Fla., and spread through the states and Mexico. It has become an international organization.”
Although the history is set in stone, reasons for attending the academy vary depending on the person. Gilbert said the importance of the academy is two-fold and urges students who are interested to attend.
“I would like to see the citizens and the police as a partnership, not as an us-versus-them ,” Gilbert said. “The point is to gain an understanding of the duties of the officers and to get feedback from the citizens. Students sometimes have a false impression of the police, and we would like to see this change.”
One participant, who has been a part of the Boulder community for over 45 years, shared her reasons for attending the academy.
“Well, I write mysteries, and it is set in Boulder, and I felt I didn’t know a lot about the police, so I thought I would take this class to see how they really operate,” said Lynn Osterkamp, a 1963 graduate of CU. “The history of how policing has changed over time is really interesting.”
Andrew Gustafson, a graduate student in the geography department at CU, talked about what compelled him to get an up-close view of officers and their responsibilities in the community.
“I decided to do the academy because I’m doing a project for the geography department on the role that law enforcement plays on the proposed redevelopment of the University Hill,” Gustafson said. “The most exciting aspect of the class has been going to the firing range and shooting guns. All the presentations have been really great, and I’ve gained insight on police culture.”
To attend the academy, every applicant must be a Boulder County resident, have a felony-clean background check processed by the police department, and time to devote to learning all they can about different operations the department caries out, Gilbert said.
“The academy, if you are accepted, is free of charge, and you get to experience some of the most important jobs of our officers. The participants will learn a lot of interesting aspects of the department, from shooting a gun to different laws that are enforced,” Gilbert said.
A new session for the academy will start in mid-September of 2007. If interested, go to www.bouldercolorado.gov/police.