By Tara Goldstein

Residents of Laurel can dive deep into everything police related, from patrolling to addressing impacts of the opioid crisis, as participants in the Laurel Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy.

During the 12-week program, participants experience hands-on instruction and discussions that cover a variety of policing practices including officer safety tactics, undercover investigations, arrest techniques and more.  

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Mike Mondy and Tony Hendrickson participate in the simulation training exercise during the Citizen’s Police Academy.
Courtesy of Laurel Police Department

Community outreach is a big reason for the program, allowing citizens to understand the police better, according to Laura Guenin, the police department’s spokesperson and director of the program. The atmosphere is casual, and students can talk with each other and the officers about what they are being taught. Participation and questions are highly encouraged.

“I think what’s special is Laurel is such a tight knit community, and with this program you can really get to know the police officers,” Guenin said.

When hands-on activities are featured, Guenin can really see the enthusiasm among participants. For a session on active shooters, participants have to react to the image of a shooter projected on a screen. It’s interesting, Guenin said, to see how fast everyone’s reflexes are and how they react. Another session focused on DUIs and involved a group of volunteers, including participants’ friends and family members, drinking throughout the two-hour class. Students saw how the volunteers changed as they continued to drink and learned how to perform sobriety field tests.

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Laurel Police Sgt. Zach Barry leads a session of the Citizen’s Police Academy.
Courtesy of Laurel Police Department

Graduation is scheduled for June 22. At last year’s ceremony, students gave speeches about why they enrolled in the program. It was eye opening, Guenin said, to hear how much the class meant to them.  

The free program is currently offered annually. Residents and police officers are eager to add a second session, Guenin said, and the department tentatively plans to offer it again in September.

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Tony Hendrickson operates a police department Segway.
Courtesy of Laurel Police Department

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