First-ever Armenian and deaf Burbank police community academies graduate

After getting an inside look at Burbank police operations — including demonstrations by the Special Weapons and Tactics team and presentations about gangs, forensics and force — members of the first-ever Armenian and deaf community academy classes have graduated.

“You probably know a lot more now about the police department than when we began,” Burbank Police Officer Joshua Kendrick said Wednesday to the more than 30 Burbank residents who completed the seven-week course.

PHOTOS: Burbank Police Department's first Armenian and hearing impaired community academy graduation ceremony

Tigran Khachikyan, who graduated from the deaf class, said that before taking the course, he had problems with police and struggled to understand their operations.

“I thought they didn’t value me as a citizen,” he said in sign language. “[Now], I feel like I really understand their job, how they’re working so hard for us.”

The academy helps strengthen the department’s community partnerships, especially as the city’s demographics continue to change, said interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse, who drove in from a conference in Palm Springs to attend the graduation.

“There are people that have had negative contacts with us,” LaChasse said. “What we need to do is repair those relationships – this is one step in that process.”

Graduate Joseph Hovanessian said his favorite parts of the course were learning about the court system, patrol procedures and detective case management.

As a graduate, Hovanessian is now eligible to volunteer with the department.

In the future, he said he’d like to get more residents from the Armenian community, especially youth, to sign up for the course..

This spring, the academy will likely be held for English and Spanish speakers, with the Armenian and deaf classes returning in the fall, officials said.

Graduates also appreciated the humor that officers brought to each class.

On his way out, one graduate told Kendrick he hopes to see him soon. He hesitated for a moment and cracked a smile. “Not…”

“Not in a bad way,” Kendrick said, and they both burst into laughter.

-- Alene Tchekmedyian, Times Community News

Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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