By CRISTIN REECE
The Palestine Police Department gained 30 new sets of eyes and ears on the street Tuesday, graduating its first-ever Citizens Police Academy during a ceremony at Palestine City Hall.
Thirty Palestine residents enrolled in the 12-week program to become what Palestine Police Chief Robert Herbert anticipates to be a first-class law enforcement support group.
“We are elated with their effort,” Herbert said. “They truly are a great group who genuinely care about their community. They will be a great help and allow us to get more eyes and ears out there working for the department and the community.”
PPD Officer Patsy Smith, who helped Herbert establish the department’s academy, added, “All of these citizens were dedicated to coming to class and are ready and eager to get out there and start helping.”
Palestine PD’s Citizens Police Academy’s class of 2013 includes Lydel Bertasa, Robert Bertasa, Robert Bess, Brenda Bess, Timothy Boynton, Vickey Chivers, John Coffman, Donna Daigle, Diane Davis, Randy Demse, Janice Hall, Teresa Herrera, Lynsie Houston, John Ballard McDonald, Dwayne Moffitt, Ricky Naismith, Lemone Reece, Jame Ripley, Cynthia Stephens, Edwin Stephens, Weiley Taylor, Therrell Thomas, Elaine Triplett, Timothy Triplett, Isaac Wynn, James Yelverton, Patsy Smith and Tom Watson.
“I participated because I wanted to be a voice for my community,” Dwayne Moffitt, pastor of South Union Missionary Baptist Church explained when asked what inspired him to get involved in the academy.
Fellow COP member and city employee Randy Demse said he enjoyed the myriad of topics covered during the program.
“It was really very interesting,” he said. “There are so many things you just don’t think about, but that the officers have got to know. It was a lot of fun with such a great group of people.”
PPD’s COP program covered several different aspects of police work, including drug enforcement, human trafficking, emergency management, crime scene investigation, ethics and included a tour of the county jail.
Herbert said he’d like to see participation improve with the next scheduled class, which is slated to start the first week of October.
“What better way is there to spend a Tuesday night in Palestine?” he asked.
According to the National Association Citizens on Patrol website, www.nacop.org, law enforcement agencies across the country have utilized COP groups for more than 20 years.
“As the name implies, Citizens On Patrol are citizens who, after being screened, background checked, and trained by their local law enforcement agency, patrol their communities acting as ‘eyes and ears’ for law enforcement,” the site states.
Those groups consist of volunteers who patrol their communities on a regular basis with regular law enforcement officials. They are not authorized to carry weapons and are encouraged to avoid physical contact with anyone they may suspect of law breaking.
“A COP’s greatest weapon is their established bond with local law enforcement and their ability to communicate directly with them by radio or cellular phones using special dedicated phone numbers,” the NACOP website states.
Other duties a COP volunteer may perform includes traffic control at the scenes of collisions, fires or special events, thus freeing the officers to focus on the situation at hand.
“It is not uncommon for an average size Citizen Patrol group of 50 members to provide a budget savings of several hundred thousand dollars a year by performing these duties,” the site states.
The National Association Citizens On Patrol was founded by, and for, Citizen Patrol Volunteers. As a non-profit, public benefit corporation, the NACOP is the only organization in the world dedicated to supporting the use and growth of Citizen Patrol groups.
The Citizen's Police Academy Symposium/Conference concept was born in September 1993, in Duncanville (near Dallas). The first formal election for NCPAA Board Members was held in Lombard, Ill., in 1999, at the National Symposium, according to the website, www.nationalcpaa.org.