Citizens Police Academy begins

PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg Citizens Police Academy kicked off Thursday night in the Parkersburg City Building.

Police Chief Joe Martin and Sgt. Greg Collins conducted the first meeting introducing the new class members to the academy criteria. The course will meet every Thursday for the next 10 weeks; students were chosen based on residency and a first-come basis, Martin said.

“We want to have a lot of laughter, a lot of friends made in here,” Collins said at the beginning of the class.

The course list includes information on what officers and detectives on the force face on a daily basis. The reason most people decided to take the course was to learn more about their local law enforcement.

Cousins Chelsea Barker and Steve Black, both of Parkersburg, wanted to take the course for an opportunity to learn how a police department operates. Barker is pursuing a career in criminal justice at West Virginia University at Parkersburg and hopes to become a K-9 officer, she said.

Black said he wants to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“I was thinking on patrol and maybe a detective some day,” he said.

Parkersburg resident John Grim said he is an usher at The Rock Church on Emerson Avenue where he has made friends who are in the law enforcement career field.

“I like to see the security aspect of things,” Grim said of why he decided to take the course.

He said the church services can bring in 500-600 people and he would like to understand the type of people he may encounter in his profession. He said he would also like to gain a better understanding of what police officers do on a day-to-day basis.

“I’ve seen a lot of bad things; it doesn’t really phase me,” Grim said. “Sometimes it’s hard to see the good when you’re used to the bad.”

The outcome of the class could show Grim the good things law enforcement officers offer their community, he said.

Martin shared some of his experiences as a police officer since the mid-1990s. He said his goal was not to portray the department as perfect but to help the public draw its own opinions.

Most of the students in the class were from Parkersburg but some were from Vienna, Boaz, Elizabeth, Mineral Wells and Williamstown.

Courses range from narcotics, K-9, firearms, the S.W.A.T. team, mock criminal investigations and a mock court case conducted by former police chief Mayor Bob Newell.

Members of the class will “graduate” from the academy at the end of May, Collins said.

Martin said he hopes the students gain an appreciation of what police officers do.

“I strongly encourage community participation in whatever we’re working on,” Martin said on behalf of the department.