There’s a lot that takes place at a citizens police academy between issuing the plastic identification cards and presenting the certificates of graduation.

Try eight sessions of sometimes intense, sometimes enlightening education about how the Akron Police Department operates. It's an inside examination of the law enforcement entity tasked with keeping the peace and fighting crime in a city of nearly 200,000 people.

Try the gun range, or the training facility where officers practice making the right decision with their guns, or stun guns sometimes used by police.

Ask the 14 citizens who graduated from the academy on Wednesday night at the Akron Police Training Department on Dan Street.

Kemp Boyd, football coach at Kenmore-Garfield High School and the new executive director of the Love Akron Network, said the sessions proved better than he had anticipated.

Boyd said the academy helped him gain a new perspective on what police and the African-American community share. Too often, he said, people see “bad apples” on television news and draw conclusions about the whole bunch.

“You might have seen that on television, but that’s not all of us,” Boyd said Wednesday at the graduation ceremony. “For me, it was that light-bulb moment.”

Lt. Gerald Forney, who heads the police department’s training bureau and ran the academy, said the experience — the first such academy for Akron in several years — was such a positive one, the department hopes to develop two academies per year.

Forney said the experience with men and women who graduated Wednesday helped identify areas the department can work on. And relationships with the attendees will continue.

One example: Members of the Kenmore-Garfield football team will spend time this summer with police to learn about law enforcement, and — perhaps — teach officers a bit about how to work out.

The path to graduation began with a tour of the downtown police headquarters and a speech from Akron Police Chief Kenneth Ball several weeks ago.

On March 6, Ball began recruiting for the academy when a letter from the chief was sent to several local citizens, encouraging them to commit to the academy.

In the letter, Ball cited a desire for a strong community-police relationship.

“The Akron Police Department relies on the involvement of concerned citizens. The goal of police-community partnerships to solve problems and address quality of life issues particular to Akron is attainable with your participation.”

Wednesday night, Ball said the purpose of the academy is to open up the police process to the community.

“It creates an opportunity for the police and community to interact,” Ball said. “We’re inviting the public in to see who we are.”

Forney said the sessions gave a chance for police and citizens to talk about issues that concern them both.

“We’re letting people know we’re human,” he said.

Before the graduation ceremony, Holly Miktarian, widow of slain Twinsburg police officer Josh Miktarian, explained to graduates the dangers of law enforcement. Her husband was killed July 13, 2008, by a man who remains on death row.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, deputy mayor for public safety Charles Brown and Chief Ball were scheduled to present certificates to the graduates at the end of the ceremony.

 

Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or aashworth@thebeaconjournal.com.