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
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.
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
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 -
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
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
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.
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