Thursday, October 13, 2011

Albany Citizens Police Academy - Week 6 - Commmunity Resource Unit

This week the Albany Citizens Police Academy focused on the Community Resource Unit which includes Community Service Officers, Community Education Specialists, School Resources Officers, and Traffic Officers as well as the Bike Patrol Unit.

Jim Dohr explained the role of the Community Service Officer in the Albany Police Department. Community Service Officers work within the community addressing complaints that don't require a patrol officer's presence. They handle junk and trash complaints, abandoned vehicles, recreational vehicle storage/use, the radar trailer, found property, animal welfare/control, and traffic control such as at accident scenes. A large portion of their work seems to be directed toward investing animal neglect/abuse cases. Dohr's pride in helping animals find a better life was quite apparent as he talked. The pictures he showed us and the stories he told us of what people can do to their animals broke my heart. I struggled not to cry a couple of times.

As Dohr talked about the Shop with a Cop program, his face lit up. The program to pairs underprivileged children with police officers to go shopping in December with a set amount of money. Most of the children want to use the money to buy presents for someone else.

One thing is certain, the Community Service Officers in the Albany Police Department keep busy!
Community Education Specialist Carmen Westfall explained the role of the Community Education Specialist. She and the other Community Education Specialist focus on organizing events to education the community not only about what the department does but about the things citizens can do to be safer in their neighborhoods and homes.
The Albany Police Department had several education programs. The Child Safety Education Program puts officers in the elementary schools to teach students about safety and the role of the police officer. They arrange Public Safety Presentations for groups and organizations as well as Police Department Tours.

Other programs include S.A.L.T - Seniors and Law Enforcement Together, S.A.S.S.I.  - Safe and Secure Seniors Independent. Both programs are designed to address the concerns and needs of Senior Citizens. S.A.S.S.I. includes free home security inspections, education and resource referral.

Bicycle Safety Rodeo Program teaches children how to ride their bikes safely and provides helmets for children who need them. Safety Camp is a fun and interactive way for children to learn about safety and the role of law enforcement.

The Drug Take Back Program began with a single day that collected so many presription drugs that were either no longer needed or expired that the department figured out a way to make it permanent. An old mailbox was converted to a drop box that now sets in the lobby of the Albany Police Department for citizens to take their expired and no longer needed prescriptions and Over-the-Counter medications to drop off for proper disposal.

They also work with Neighborhood Watch Groups and Citizen Patrol groups including training of the groups. Citizen Patrol is trained to observe, record, and report not to take any action.

Patrol Observation and the Citizens Police Academy are both organized by the Community Education Specialists.

The Community Education Specialists work actively to keep the community educated and involved to help prevent crime and promote better relations between the department and the community. One such program being designed right now is the Incident Aftercare Program (I.A.P.) to address citizen concerns after a major incident in a neighborhood.

The School Resource Officers (SROs) spend their days in the schools  building a relationship between the officers and the students and educators. SROs investigate crimes that take place in the schools or on school grounds, serve as protectors of the schools, call for lockdowns of schools when necessary, provide student threat assessments, educate students and educators, and serve as a counselor. Their presence in schools has resulted in a decline in crime rates among juveniles. SROs serve a vital role in the community with their work in the schools.

Bicycle Patrol allows officers to interact more easily with the community as the officers are out in the open and are more approachable. Bicycle Patrol Officers are required to take thirty hours of specialized training in tactical use training of the bicycle. they learn to use the bicycle as a weapon, for crowd control, and mounting/dismounting effectively to not allow the bicycle to interfere with their job as well as ridingf both slow and fast, jumping curbs, negotiating stairs, transitioning from riding to running, and spinning. Bicycle Patrol provides an effective tool for criminal and traffic enforcement because the bicycle can go places cars can't and moves faster than someone on foot. It is also inexpensive and provides a workout for the officer. The bicycle does present challenges including custody and transport, only limited necessary equipment can be carried on the bike, bike doesn't provide cover like a car does, and timely arrival on calls can be impeded due to distances needed to ride. Bicycle Patrol serves a vital role in policing by having a presence in the community, investigating crimes, and promoting good citizen relations.

The Community Resource Department works to promote good community relations, teach crime prevention and safety techniques, and investigate crimes that fall under their purview.

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