COSTA MESA : Police Chief Honors Citizen Graduates


In what police officers hope will be a launching pad for an improved relationship with the community, 20 people graduated Tuesday from the city’s first citizen academy.

The graduates, ranging in age from their mid-20s to more than 70, finished the 11-week academy and were honored by Chief David L. Snowden at an evening celebration.

Besides certificates, the participants received citations for their skills at firing police weapons and photos of themselves with officers.


“We’re just happy that this thing worked out so well,” said Lt. Alan Kent, who launched the program and commands the city’s Westside Station, where the classes took place.

“What we wanted them to come away with was an interaction with the Police Department,” he said. “The big buzz was forming a partnership with them and allowing these people to learn more about our law enforcement methods.”

Several other cities, including Huntington Beach, Buena Park and Tustin, use citizen academies as an avenue to cooperation between officers and the public.

Costa Mesa’s first academy class rode along with officers, learned from a Municipal Court judge how cases are processed, witnessed a SWAT demonstration and saw how crime scenes are investigated.

“It has been an absolutely wonderful experience,” said Heather Somers, president of the Eastside Homeowners’ Assn. and an academy graduate.

Somers’ special honor: firing a SWAT-team sniper rifle from 100 yards and hitting her target. “I had to get down into a sniper position on my stomach,” she said.


Somers said she also gained knowledge that she plans to share through her community work.

“One of the most useful things was to be able to be more crime aware so I wasn’t walking blindly through life,” she said. “You can prevent crime just from being more aware of what’s going on around you.”