By Patrick Lacombe, Correspondent
The first class of the 2016 Belton Citizens Police Academy was held Thursday, Jan 28 at the Belton Police headquarters.
The class of 2016 had 22 citizens to sign up for the academy. CPA classes are offered once a year starting in January. They are designed to give citizens of Belton, a better understanding of police procedures and to give a perspective of what our police department does on a daily basis.
Classes are held on Thursday nights for a total of ten weeks and the participants are able to participate in demonstrations of proper use of a Taser and actually get to use an actual Taser on a cardboard target. Other classes involve searching and clearing a dark building where students enter a room armed only with a wooden pistol and flashlight and have to find a suspect or suspects hidden in the room and place them under arrest.
Another popular class is the traffic stop instruction which is held outdoors. Cars are parked and the students are simulating an actual traffic stop. Class members are put into an actual patrol vehicle and can briefly use the siren to make the stop. Again armed only with a simulated pistol and flashlight, students are given an insight on what it feels like to approach a vehicle with unknown occupants at night. Class members are unaware of who or what may be in the vehicle. The scenarios, just as in real life can vary anywhere from a drunk behind the wheel to a driver or passenger with a gun.
Other classes include a visit to the Bell County 911 center with a tour of the facility and a visit to the Bell County detention center with a tour led by Sheriff Eddie Lange.
After the 10 week Academy instruction, graduates are given the opportunity to become a member of the Belton Police Department’s CHIPS program. CHIPS (Citizens Helping In Police Service) members are the eyes and ears of the police department and help with such events as Belton’s Fourth Of July parade, working the streets to help parade goers stay safe and directing traffic to parking areas and giving directions. This allows the police department to keep more Police Officers on patrol throughout the city.
The class of 2016 is the seventh class since the Citizens Police Academy was started by Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis in 2011, as a way to expand police resources through volunteers. The primary objective of the CHIPS program is deterrence through visible presence. CHIPS volunteers supplement department resources by being extra eyes and ears while patrolling parks, shopping centers, and other areas where large groups may gather. Additionally, volunteers help with administrative tasks inside the police building and at department community outreach functions. CHIPS members must be graduates of our Citizens Police Academy Program and attend some additional training specific to the CHIPS program. Contact the Belton Police Department, if you are interested in joining the CHIPS program.
According to the Belton Police Department website, the Belton Police Department serves our diverse and vibrant community by providing law enforcement services to Belton residents and visitors 24-hours a day, seven days a week. This is accomplished through a dedicated staff of professionals. We are committed to a community policing philosophy and proactively seek out ways to interact with the community to reduce crime and the fear of crime, and solve community problems that jeopardize quality of life. We recognize that we cannot do it alone; therefore, all members of the Belton Police Department seek to build partnerships with our citizens, businesses, community groups, and other organizations to maintain the excellent quality of life we enjoy in Belton.