Donna Kelly, wearing a Citizens Police Academy shirt, looks over her certificate on Saturday at the police station.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Nearly a dozen people have been spending three hours every Saturday learning the ins and outs of law enforcement.
The end of the nine-week Citizens Police Academy course at the police station was greeted with a chorus of "nooos" as interim Police Chief Mark Bailey informed that their time together was over.
He thanked the group for giving up so much of their time to learn about their local department.
"You're helping us out again by spreading the word about what we do, understanding what we do," he said. "And it's also helping you out as well. You understand your rights as citizens and how things work, how the whole process operates."
It also helps the officers, the chief said, because repeating and teaching what they know helps them when they are speaking on the stand in court and when they are out in the field and interacting with citizens.
This first class learned about the law, police operations, types of crimes, and ways to keep themselves safe. It included learning fingerprinting and ride-alongs with officers for some up-close experience in policing.
"This has just been eye-opening and I have learned so much," said Darcie Lampiasi. "I did nine classes, everyone I enjoyed, every single one. Filling out the form it asks for your for least favorite classes, and I don't have a least favorite.
"There's not a single bad thing I could say."
She laughed that she took the course because it was free education with no test. But really, she said, it was about being part of her community.
"I have other hats I wear in the community and I just wanted ... like, to have an umbrella, or a little bit of everything," Lampiasi said. "That's the reason why I took it and I absolutely obtained that knowledge and made the connections to help people in the community if needed."
Marcia Brown said she'd "absolutely" recommend taking the course.
"All the training that our police force goes through and all the technology that's constantly changing that they have to learn," she said. "I learned a lot. ... Today was the about cyber [crimes]. That really opened my eyes."
Mayor Jennifer Macksey also expressed her gratitude for participants' sacrifice on a Saturday morning and their interest in what the force does.
"I've learned over the last few years with the jobs that our police officers, firefighters and EMS, and even the role of citizens, sometimes you have to deal with things you don't want to deal with," she said. "I hope that you've learned a couple of things, one that you recognize the hard work that our boys in blue, our gals in blue do every day and that you recognize that we as a community, as a public safety entity, are working really, really hard."
The graduates are now a valuable asset to their community, the mayor continued.
The academy was implemented by Bailey as part of the community engagement goals he had planned when stepping into the leadership role in June. The mayor called it "a true testament of what community engagement is."
Bailey said he anticipates another Citizens Academy, with likely 10 classes.
"It was a pilot program," he said. "We wanted to see if people like it and they loved so we're going to do it again."
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