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Armed With Pen and Paper, I'm Learning the Ropes of PG Police

Patch editor shares her 12-week journey through the Prince George's County Police Department Citizens' Police Academy.

Thirty-three students sat around the room Monday night, nervous for the first day of class.

Or maybe it was just me who was jittery.

Among us: a police wife, who wanted to understand her husband when he talks; a husband whose wife signed him up (Meanwhile, she was at home, he said.); a handful of veterans; a nurse; and neighborhood watch committee members.

And me, a reporter and editor, looking for the kind of context it takes to do some solid police reporting, and to share the experience with readers through a weekly blog post.

When asked if we had been through a citizens’ police academy before, none of us raised our hands.

The Training and Education Division of the Prince George’s County Police hosts the Citizens’ Police Academy—a 12-week course in Lanham—so that residents can meet officers, learn about how the department operates, various laws, and the different challenges the officers face.

About 600 citizens completed the program since it was started in 1991, according to the PGCPD blog. After making it through the 11 three-hour classes, I’ll be among the 30th cohort to graduate.

I learned about the program last summer, when it was announced at a College Park Mayor and Council meeting that Councilman (Dist. 1) completed the academy. So did College Park’s Zari Malsawma, who is integral in the city’s neighborhood watch efforts. I never heard anything but good feedback about the program.

So, yes, there are benefits to taking this course that will supplement my reporting; but frankly, it just sounded like a cool thing to do, too.

I mean, next week we’ll meet an officer from the gang unit; two weeks after that, the Crime Scene Investigation unit. (It used to simply be called the “evidence” unit, class instructor Sgt. Nancy Jackson told us. Now, yes, it’s PG’s own CSI.)

We’ll take field trips to the communications center and evidence lab, and learn about (and hopefully meet) the K-9 unit.

At the end of it all, there’s a class photo and a graduation.

I don’t know about the other 32 students, who sat in the room there at the Training Academy in Lanham, but I didn’t realize until looking down the schedule of courses the kind of understanding I will gain from this experience.

But the department gains something from this, too. They’re looking for new officers to join the force. And they're looking for students to become ambassadors for the department, just like the officers themselves, several of the speakers explained.

Check back weekly for my blog—reflection pieces—about the classes.

This is my first blog on Patch. Do you have a tie to College Park and want to blog? Email Shannon.Hoffman@Patch.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Shannon Hoffman April 02, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Thanks, Chief Mitchell and Barry for reading! My second class is tonight. Watch for a blog post either Tuesday or Wednesday. (Elections tomorrow might slow my production down a bit...) I'm looking forward to the experience!
Clay Gump April 04, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Good Luck Shannon. Look forward to reading about it.
pgcoresident April 04, 2012 at 05:03 PM
sounds interesting! looking forward to hearing more about it!
Shannon Hoffman April 06, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Hey all, here's a recap of my class--about Prince George's gangs--from this past week: http://patch.com/B-H7y It was certainly an interesting lesson. The story is disheartening, but watch the video for comic relief. If you find the gang lesson interesting, know that the gang unit member who led this class, Sgt. Norris, will be holding a free lesson next month. Info here: http://patch.com/E-l1Rc
dino vinciguerra April 25, 2012 at 04:17 PM
shannon must have learned a lot about donuts and not about fighting crime The PG police dept is the most inept in the state.

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