Citizen's Police Academy aims to empower women

Women of Saline County have eight days to apply for the Benton Police Department's Citizens Police Academy that not only plans to empower women, but give them a chance to have fun.
"My daughter went through the Junior Police Academy in high school a few years ago, and she has been wanting to do it again," former participant Jeff Morse said. "She had a really good time, and when I saw an opportunity to go through it myself, I took it. I feel very fortunate to get this opportunity."
Normally the Citizens Police Academy is open to all residents, but this time it is geared strictly to women since October is the Domestic Violence Awareness month, Lt. Kevin Russell said. Many of the programs in the class will remain, but the department is adding a few safety aspects geared specifically for women.
"We are trying to heighten the awareness of domestic violence. By gearing this class to female safety issues, we hope to educate on how a police department operates for a community, but also give women ideas and skills to help prevent them from becoming victims," Russell said.
Participants spend a couple of hours a night, once a week for eight weeks starting on Oct. 2 (and ending on Nov. 13). In return, the participants get to conduct mock traffic stops, investigate a crime scene, shoot various guns, put on "drunk goggles," learn about narcotics investigations, watch a K-9 officer in action, participate in a ride-along with an officer, and learn what most law enforcement officials deal with in everyday situations, as well as what SWAT team members can encounter. At the end of the eight weeks, the participants receive a certificate, gifts and a new perspective during a graduation ceremony with the police chief and Benton mayor.
"I thought (the class) was absolutely fabulous," said Joy Buchanan, a recent graduate. "I highly recommend this class, because I think it will benefit anyone and give them a better understanding of what the boys in blue go through and put up with."
Those interested in attending the academy are invited to stop by the Benton Police Department at 114 S. East St., Suite 100, and fill out an application and release form. Female applicants must be at least 18 and must not have any felony convictions. Deadline to submit applications is 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28.
"The program allows citizens to witness firsthand what their officers are doing day and night to ensure their safety and protect their property," Russell said. "It gives them a good insight into the way officers do or don't do certain things, and that things don't always work like you see on television."
He added, "Not only do citizens get to learn about officers' duties, the officers also learn from citizens and their concerns and how we can better serve them in the future."
For more information, call Lt. Kevin Russell or Sgt. Justin Tittle at 501-776-5948.