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Our Opinion: Cops and citizens: a good mix

May 21, 2001

It is always positive when a police department shows innovation in reaching out to the community. Recently, the Calexico Police Department showed innovation by announcing plans to have a citizens' academy designed to show people what it is police do and why they do it.

It's just another form of community-oriented policing, something of a catch phrase now throughout the nation and here in the Valley. Community-oriented policing is aimed at erasing some of the lines that have separated the community from police departments, introducing the community to police officers and vice versa.

We have always supported police departments in the Imperial Valley as they have initiated community-oriented policing. What those programs do is make it easier for people to contact police and for police to have a stronger relationship with the communities they serve.

The citizens' academy will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal. Each session will last about 13 weeks and up to 30 residents in each session will meet with police at the headquarters for three-hour programs to learn about police work. Residents will learn life-saving techniques, information about drugs and gangs, and a whole list of other issues with which police must deal.

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Once people are trained they will be able to take part in volunteer programs the department hopes to start in the next year. Those police involved in the academy said they hope to start neighborhood watch and citizens' patrol programs. They also would like to see volunteers help man the department's substation.

While police do not want citizens to take on criminals they might see, they do want people to serve as extra sets of eyes in the community. If a citizen in a volunteer program sees a crime or anything suspicious, that citizen can report it to police.

Such volunteer programs have worked in El Centro and Brawley and have worked in Calexico Housing Authority projects, where such a program involving project residents has been ongoing for some years. We think the community policing concept can work to great effect for all of Calexico. We are confident such programs do make police departments seem more approachable and build the relationship necessary between police and the community to assure police can provide the best protection possible.

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