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Community Academy offering insiders view into police work

CIVIC CENTER - I like to think I have a pretty good relationship with

the Burbank Police Department and a good understanding of what they do.

But, that’s my job.

For others, it’s rare to get an inside look at the workings of the

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police department, or it was until recently.

In September, the Burbank Police Department started its first ever

Community Academy to teach about 20 Burbank residents about various

aspects of police work.

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I was invited by Sgt. Craig Varner - who put together the course - to

take part in the 12-week program.

The class wasn’t designed just to bolster good relations between the

community and the police, it was a sincere effort to educate the public

about what different officers do on a day-to-day basis.

Each week, we were introduced to one or two areas of police work -

everything from narcotics investigations to administrative duties. Each

of the classes was taught by a member of the department who works

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directly in the area being discussed.

For some of the speakers, it was their first time talking publicly

about their job - and it showed. But while their presentation skills

weren’t always polished, it didn’t detract from their knowledge of what

they were talking about. If anything, it made them more human in our eyes

by breaking down the formality that often exists in relations between the

police and the public.

Often, we were given a situation and asked how we would handle it -

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from searching a car that police think might have drugs inside to being

the sergeant in charge of a crime scene. Of course, the officers who

spoke didn’t divulge everything, but they did share some details that

gave us an insiders view into policing. Some of the stuff we learned was

definitely a reality check.

For example, in the class about domestic violence, Det. Jose Duran

talked about three cases - a husband who violently kidnapped his wife and

beat her, a daughter who plotted to kill her mother and a woman who was

beat up by her boyfriend.

Listening to these sad stories is one thing, but looking at crime

scene photos from a domestic violence murder or pictures of a woman’s

badly bruised body made a huge impact and gave us a better sense of the

types of things cops have to deal with on a regular basis.

I know that class left an impression on me and it also did with

another participant, Frances De Santos.

“I didn’t know about domestic violence in the city,” said De Santos,

who works for the Media City Center. “By the end of the year, there will

be 300 reported in the city. That blew me away.”

As the weeks progressed, I realized that I was part of something

unique.

I doubt there are many cities offering a class where one week two

municipal court judges teach students about search and seizure laws and

the next week the students are experiencing the effects of a live

flash-bang grenade.

The mix of the students who signed up for the pilot program was also

very interesting. There were lawyers, aspiring police officers,

stay-at-home moms and retired senior citizens. The different points of

view made for interesting discussions. Nearly everyone who took part said

they found the class informative and were glad they had signed up.

The department also considered the program a success. Plans are being

made to start a new academy in the spring. Feedback from our group will

be considered as the department looks for ways to make the program even

stronger. I suggest signing up early. It may not be so easy to get a spot

next time around.

In a time where many people are disenchanted with police, believing

they are out of touch with the people they serve, it’s nice to see our

local department reaching out for new ways to communicate with Burbank

residents. The Community Academy turned out to be a great way to do that.

INFO BOX:

What: Burbank Police Department’s Community Academy

When: March 11 to May 27, Thursdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

How: Applications available at the front desk of Police Headquarters,

200 N. Third Street.

PHONE: For more information, call Sgt. Craig Varner at 238-3232


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