Citizens police academy under way
Fresh coffee was available to citizens as they entered the police training room on Sept. 10, for the first of eight weekly citizens police academy classes hosted by the Goose Creek Police Department.
About 18 citizens attended the unique opportunity to learn about the police force.
“We live in a great country where we can freely assemble,” 34-year law enforcement veteran GCPD Chief Harvey Becker said.
Becker has spent 33 of his years in law enforcement at GCPD and 25 years as chief.
Patrol Division Commander Capt. Shawn Laffey said he has spent all 18 of his years in law enforcement at GCPD. He said there are 46 traffic patrol officers.
Capt. David Aarons is the special operations division commander and essentially runs the citizens police academy. He has spent 17 years in law enforcement, most of them at GCPD.
Crime Prevention Specialist Kevin Scott said he’s been at GCPD nearly five years.
“The intent is not to teach you to be a police officer, but to inform you of why we do what we do,” Becker said. “You’re educated and informed and you can educate and inform your friends.
“We are not as effective as we can be if you don’t trust us. We need you to be our eyes and ears. I don’t think we want to live in a police state where there is an officer at every corner. Hopefully this (academy) will lead to a stronger trust-based relationship.”
Scott said every city faces challenges, and Goose Creek is no different.
“Drugs are there,” he said. “I don’t care what socio-economic neighborhood you live in. We don’t have a bubble over Goose Creek. What we’re seeing more and more of are meth labs. It’s scary stuff.”
Becker handed out a 10-question multiple choice quiz to test each citizen’s knowledge of GCPD and overall police operations. This included information such as the $33,000 annual starting salary for a certified police officer and the 2013 department budget of $6 million, a question many got wrong.
Becker said it is a 24/7 operation that includes holiday pay. He said fringe benefits are health insurance, retirement and workman’s comp.
“Salaries are much of the operating cost,” Becker said. “Gas. There’s always a motor running.”
This is the third year GCPD has had enough interest from the public to conduct the classes. The first one was in 2004 and the last one was in 2007.
“It’s a collateral resource,” Aarons said. “Everyone who comes here has already worked a full day.”
A monthly report handed to citizens showed in August 2013 there were 86 crimes against persons, 110 against property, 10 traffic DUIs, seven bench warrant cases, seven alcohol violations and three weapons violations.