Summit County launches third Latino Citizens Police Academy
Summit County residents will have the chance to experience work as a cop, including traffic and investigations, as part of May’s Latino Citizens Police Academy. Based on past police academies, this spring’s offering will give Spanish-speaking residents a chance to learn more about the county’s law enforcement process.
“They get to be the officer,” Haynes said. “They get to participate and be the person doing the traffic stops, and see what it’s like.”
Javier Dominguez, coordinator for Unidos por la Igualdad (United for Equality), said 12 people already registered for this year’s academy, the third of its kind in Summit County.
“We’re trying to get new people,” Dominguez said. “When people go for the first time they’re happy to learn more about what the police do. Before, they don’t know much about it.”
He hopes to bring in 10 more registrants before the three-week academy, which runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, May 6, 13 and 20.
“They will learn how people become police officers, our hiring process and how we train them,” said Frisco Police Chief Tom Wickman. “They’ll be given a snapshot of how detectives handle cases and investigations, as well as meeting with a judge and the district attorney to see how the courts work.”
For the first day of the academy, participants will visit the Summit County Communications Center to see the behind-the scenes work of 911 dispatchers. They will also have the opportunity to speak with Esteban Ortega, an officer with the Breckenridge Police Department who moved to the county from Ensenada, Mexico.
“If someone has an interest in law enforcement, there are roads to make that happen,” Haynes said, adding that one of the police academy’s previous attendees now works as a deputy with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. “We’ve had folks who want to help or volunteer in some way, or just want to be a positive force for law enforcement after what they learned. I have a few folks on my police advisory committee that went through the citizens’ police academy as well.”
The second session—a favorite of many—is focused on traffic stops and investigations. Officers will guide participants through a mock scenario where they go through the steps of pulling over a car.
“It can be dark out, so we look at how you hold your flashlight and approach the car,” Haynes said. “It’s a great opportunity for folks to see what really happens.”
For the investigations portion, detectives present the details of fact-finding, and have previously let participants try their hand at dusting for fingerprints.
To wrap up the academy, on May 20, the group will get a tour of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, the jail and the courts, with the opportunity to meet Judge Edward Casias and Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown.
While Breckenridge is organizing the academy this year, all four of Summit County’s police departments and the sheriff’s office will be involved. County officials worked together to create the Latino Citizens Police Academy several years ago, after coalitions and local leaders requested a version specifically for Spanish speakers.
“We were just working with the local group and meeting with them on a monthly basis. They really wanted to do an academy, and we wanted to do one for them,” said former Breckenridge police chief Rick Holman, who currently serves as assistant Town Manager. “They’re very fulfilling for both sides. I think the police get a lot out of it too.”
The request came following the passage of Senate Bill 90 in 2006, which required that law enforcement report individuals arrested for a criminal offense who are suspected of being undocumented to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“That created a lot of fear,” Holman said. “There’s always a big fear about immigration, and getting involved if they witness a crime.”
Holman said the main focus of the academy of that time was to build relationships with the community, so that they would have someone they could feel safe contacting.
“We had a big increase in the comfort of them feeling like they could call the police,” Holman said, adding he and other staff received more calls that year.
“Whether they’re a victim of a crime, and they’re calling us when they may not have called us otherwise, or they see something they don’t think is right and they call to ask a question, those are all things we want people to feel more comfortable doing,” Haynes said. “We know there are a few members of the community that don’t have proper documentation, but we don’t want these folks to be afraid to call us when they need help.”
Residents interested in participating can contact Breckenridge Police Chief Shannon Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org for an application form.
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