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First Class Graduates from Susanville Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Officer Richard Warner, who coordinated the program, and the graduates from the first class of the Susanville Police Department’s Citizen’s Academy

by Marshel Couso

Now that our Citizen’s Academy is over it feels strange that I will no longer be spending my Tuesday nights at the Susanville Police Department, getting a peek behind the badge and learning some of what it takes to be a police officer here in our community.

When I first signed up for the 12-week Citizen’s Academy offered by the department I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought I had a fairly good grasp of what Police Officers did, how they enforced the law and caught bad guys. After 12 weeks I realize that my knowledge barely scratched the surface of the subject.

Each week we learned something new – what dispatch needs from us when reporting crimes or emergencies, how to identify gang graffiti, crime scene analysis, (dispelling the CSI myths about law enforcement capabilities) dusting for prints – a wide variety of interesting topics relating to law enforcement. Most importantly we learned how to make changes to avoid being victims of crimes ourselves.

According to Susanville Police Chief John King, who spearheaded the Citizen’s Academy program, the Academy was designed to help bring some awareness to Susanville residents, so that they know what they are looking at when they see it.

“Our purpose was to help enlighten the community on what criminals are doing most frequently and how to avoid those crimes,” explains King.

“Some people do not consider what they do with junk mail, locking their cars etc. By showing people how criminals work and how easy it is for them to victimize someone, that person can do a little bit to help secure their own life and make themselves or their families less likely to be victimized.”

“Most people have a good sense of right and wrong,” said King, “however, as good people they don’t have a working knowledge of what methamphetamine looks like or how stolen property is fenced.”

“The idea of the Academy is to arm people with that knowledge and let that knowledge spread. When everyone around us is alert and aware, the criminal element of our society has less dark space to work in.”

“I really liked the class,” said Academy graduate April Johnson. “Overall it helps citizens step up and learn how they can help in the community, and create a positive impact on the community with the local officers.”

Thankfully the class was light on handouts and powerpoint presentations, instead we had hands-on experiences with simulator exercises, practical scenarios and officer ride-alongs. The discussions the class held were always thought provoking and insightful. Officer Richard Warner, who coordinated the program for the department, made every topic interesting and the classes worthwhile.

Guest presenters included Lassen County District Attorney Stacey Montgomery who gave us an overview of California’s criminal justice system and explained the role of the D.A. I found the sequence of events in the criminal justice system – from the commission of a crime to the final outcome – especially interesting.

Every guest instructor was passionate about their profession and what they were sharing with us. There were a few surprises that I won’t share so as not to spoil it for the next class.

Most importantly, what we learned was what we as a community can do to help ourselves, our community and our law enforcement.

“The citizens academy is really about empowering people to protect themselves and their families,” said Chief King. “Unfortunately in this day and age there are significant demands on law enforcement and most of the assistance we provide is reactionary. It is better for everyone to prevent a crime rather than respond to one and that is what the citizen’s academy is meant to do; to help people recognize an area where they may be exposed to crime and prevent it before it happens.”

Learn what you can do to make a difference. Join or start a neighborhood watch, learn how to protect your love ones from scams that target the elderly, teach others how to recognize dangerous situations. In the law enforcement realm being forewarned is forearmed.

We live in a rural area where many of us have know each other since grade school and that includes many members of our local law enforcement community. They are a part of our town, they are one of us and they put their lives on the line for us every single shift. We need to stand and work together in every way possible, every single day.

If you want to be a part of the solution I highly recommend you take this course the next time the Citizen’s Academy is offered by the department, I promise, you won’t be sorry you did.

With Chief King in the background Officer Warner presents Lassen County Assessor Dan Schlueter with his diploma at the Academy’s graduation ceremony


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