Learning more about the boys in blue

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NAUGATUCK — Twenty-four residents, 10 weeks, 13 subjects, one goal: to increase civilians’ understanding of the boys in blue. The Naugatuck Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy course finished up on Thursday.

Police Captain Jeremiah Scully organized, recruited and taught the class about various topics concerning the job of a policeman.

This is the first time Naugatuck has held a Citizen’s Academy since 1999. “I got the idea from neighboring communities who have held the program,” Scully said. “[The department] wanted to take a more proactive approach to community policing. A lot of people’s perception is that we just ride around in cars all day, and we wanted to change that.”

Topics discussed in the ten classes included: criminal investigations, driving under the influence, patrols, motor vehicle stops, police canine, crime scenes, detective work, domestic violence and narcotics investigations, use of force, and courts and probation.

“I coordinated the whole program, breaking down the major parts of the department into lessons,” Scully said, “Different members of the department taught different subjects.”

Thus far, the response from students has been overwhelmingly positive, said Scully. Katey Baruth, an academy student, wrote it had been, “a wonderful and extremely eye-opening experience. I am appreciative of the department for allowing us to view the inner workings of their highly professional and dedicated team of police officers and staff,” she wrote in an e-mail correspondence with Citizen’s News.

The accident investigation team, which is a joint effort of the Naugatuck, Wolcott, Middlebury and Watertown Police Departments, informed students about crime scene investigations, tire patterns and the like. Students also toured of the department, saw the inner workings of a crime van, and were fingerprinted.

“I think people were most surprised at the probation officers that came in,” Scully said. “People don’t know how many are on probation, and the fact that probation officers make home visits on a regular basis.”

When planning the program, Scully hesitated to schedule three-hour classes, but found out quickly they could have easily gone longer. “People stick around until 9:30 and sometimes 10 o’clock,” he said, “which is good, because they can now become ambassadors between the police department and people in the town.” The enthusiasm shown made members of the department realize their goal of a better relationship with community members was within reach.

“I was able to see firsthand what a tireless and complicated job police officers have, and how they learn to make critical and often life-or-death decisions,” wrote Baruth. “I left the academy with even more respect and appreciation for each officer, and a better perspective on how vital the police are to keeping Naugatuck a safe and thriving community.”

Scully said the department used a newly-obtained federal grant to fund the course. He said that as long as the grant money holds out, the department will schedule another Citizen’s Academy course. The next session is planned for the fall.