The city gained a new “class” of citizens Tuesday after the Palestine Police Department awarded certificates to 16 graduates of the second annual Citizens on Patrol (COP) program – a free volunteer-based class that offers community members a chance to serve as additional eyes and ears for law enforcement.
Graduates of the course assist the Palestine Police Department by going out on patrol, observing and reporting information. Participants were screened and had to pass a background check to attend two-hour classes once a week over a 12-week period, which began in October. Classes met at the Police Training Center in the Palestine Mall.
Brenda Galindo, community liaison for the Palestine Police Department, said the course essentially educates citizens “of what goes on.” Instruction is provided by area officials, such as members of law enforcement, court judges, the criminal district attorney and others. Speakers from other sectors of the justice system also weigh in, from the Texas Department of Public Safety to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“It's sort of like a police academy,” Galindo said. “They come in and talk about what they see and what they deal with.”
During the course, each student also participates in a “citizen ride-out” with a member of law enforcement. Now that they've graduated, Galindo said students can volunteer with another member of the course to patrol at various times. If they observe anything suspicious, they can then report it to the department – though they are not authorized to carry weapons or interfere in a situation as a member of law enforcement would.
According to the National Association Citizens on Patrol website, www.nacop.org, law enforcement agencies across the country have utilized partnerships with COP groups for more than 20 years. Other duties a COP volunteer may perform include traffic control at the scenes of collisions, fires or other events, thus freeing the officers to focus on the situation at hand.