Citizens join in Keller’s Police Academy

Reporter Mark David Smith is participating in the Keller Police Department Citizen Police Academy, which meets once a week from Jan. 27 - April 14.

It isn‘t often a citizen gets an up-close look at and in a police department. Myself and 20 other men and women are getting that opportunity over the next three months through the Keller Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy.

Police ride-alongs, building search simulations and lessons in SWAT, active shooter response and K-9 operations — among many other topics — are on the docket for future weeks, though some of it’s optional. Week 1 was more laid back, but still informative and interesting.

Officer Amanda Baker led a tour of KPD headquarters, 330 Rufe Snow Drive, and introduced us to the logistics of policing in Keller.

Of more than 50 officers, patrol officers work 12-hour shifts among seven zones in Keller and Westlake. Two traffic officers patrol Keller roads and two patrol in Westlake at a time, and daily locations are posted on the department’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

It transitioned well to Police Chief and Interim City Manager Mark Hafner’s presentation, as he gave a quick lesson on Keller’s government, budget and development, as well as the police department’s crime statistics and community impact.

Transparency, compassionate policing and values are important to Hafner and the department. A recent citizen survey showed that nearly all Keller residents feel very or reasonably safe, and the most common problems they reported were traffic violations and noise disturbances.

Community Relations Officer James Intia closed the first academy class with a brief presentation on how important it is for the department to “incorporate a bond between the citizens of Keller and the police department.” Intia also conducts safety programs at Keller schools, promotes crime prevention and coordinates community events, such as the Public Safety Fall Festival.

The goal of the academy is to educate residents about the department and role of law enforcement in Keller, which has one of the lowest crime rates in the state. Participants applied and were approved to learn more about the issues, techniques, training and logistics involved with policing one of the safest cities in Texas.

The Citizen Police Academy is also a prerequisite for Volunteers in Police Services, a group of more than 50 Keller residents who undergo more training to become official department volunteers. VIPS members can ride with police officers, sit in with police dispatchers and take the Citizen Patrol cars out to help put more eyes on the streets and report suspicious activity.

On the docket next week: Department philosophy and values and chaplain duties.