The Citizens’ Police Academy gives the University of Nebraska-Lincoln community a chance to connect with and learn from the UNL Police Department, but due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, it has been postponed.
The academy is a free, eight-week course designed to teach its participants about the different departments within UNLPD. Although it was usually only held in the fall, the academy held its first spring session for 15 UNL students, faculty and staff members on Tuesday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and began on Feb. 11, according to Nebraska Today.
John Backer, police operations captain for UNLPD, said the participants have been able to learn about some of the departments, like dispatch, but they will have to wait to finish the academy. Backer said he hopes all the participants will be able to finish in the summer or fall, but he knows that some may have other commitments that require them to drop out.
“Heartbreak might be a little excessive, but because it’s such an awesome opportunity, not only for others to learn about our line of work and what we do, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more about the different areas and the different departments and units on campus that [the participants] represent,” he said. “It’s as much of a learning opportunity for us as it is for them.”
Backer said the academy had finished the lecture and presentation portions of the experience and was set to start more interactive activities like crime scene investigation and meeting the K-9 units, which he said would be hard to teach online.
“You miss a lot doing [the class] over Zoom,” he said. “We want to give a good experience and want to give the participants the best experience that we can.”
Jeanne Keyser, assistant director of residence life, participated in the fall 2019 semester of the Citizens Police Academy. She said the interactive portions were exciting and important to the experience.
“You got to interact with a lot of the different officers and hear their different perspectives,” she said. “Having the chance to interact with them and learn more about their history in law enforcement and what interests them … a lot of those things I think were some things you were exposed to when you were doing the interactive parts of it.”
The current participants will have the opportunity to graduate in the summer or fall from the academy, and Backer said until then UNLPD is focusing its resources on responding to the pandemic.
“We’re glad to be able to do it when we can,” he said. “We’re excited to pick it back up where we left off.”