Many people might go their entire lives without interacting with the police of their town besides speeding tickets or bumping elbows at the supermarket.
For about a dozen Juneau residents, though, the Juneau Police Department is offering a closer look over an eight-week course.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to connect. Our mission statement is to build partnerships,” said Lt. Scott Erickson, who oversaw the course. “Our youngest (participant) was 18 years old. I think he’s interested because he has a desire to pursue a career in law enforcement. A couple of folks are a lot older and I think they’re interested in learning how their community works.”
The eight-week course covers topics from policies to special unit functions to things like how everyday patrolling works, Erickson said.
“Some of them are interested in how the laws work,” Erickson said. “When we did a search and seizure class a few weeks back, a lot of them were interested.”
The students seem to be generally enjoying the class, Erickson said.
“I’ve been really liking it. I’m learning a lot,” said Justin Gunderson, who was taking part in the class. “I wanted to learn more and show support for the police officers.”
For others, this class is a first step toward a possible future career in law enforcement.
“I love it,” said Arnold Haube. “It’s been a dream of mine of being a police officer for a couple of years.”
Both students said that they’d enjoyed learning more about the policies and decision-making processes that police deal with every day.
“Just how each decision is thought out. They really think about how they take certain actions,” Gunderson said. “I really appreciate that they held this course. I’d recommend it to any citizen of Juneau.”
The course is also a way for police to interact with citizens in a relaxed and non-formal setting, Erickson said.
“It’s good for getting an outside perspective,” Erickson said. “It’s easy for us to to sit in here and think ‘that’s how everything is.’ A lot of times that’s not the case.”
JPD will likely arrange another Citizen’s Academy in the new year, Erickson said. The department is also restarting a cadet program that was last functional in the ‘90s, said Chief Ed Mercer. The cadet program, like Capital City Fire/Rescue’s own recently restarted cadet program, would allow youth to learn more about being a police officer and provide a pathway into entering service with the JPD.
“This is something I really feel that’s valuable for the community and the police,” Mercer said in an interview. “Our hope is to be as transparent as we possibly can, show why we do what we do, what our capabilities are.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.