The first edition of the Dunn Police Citizens Academy is complete, and according to the man who created and oversaw the initial class, it was a total success.
Students in the class spent eight weeks exploring several areas related to law enforcement. The nine students were exposed to things oftentimes not seen or experienced by the public.
“It was our goal in everything to give the average citizen a better look into how the city and the city’s police department conducts business, so to speak,” Dunn Police officer Carnell Campbell said.
Instructors for the various classes — which included both police and city department officials — numbered over 20.
“They were from city departments and from the divisions of the police department,” Campbell said. “They came out and gave presentations on how they do their job and why they do their job.”
The program featured many hands-on activities including things such as fingerprinting, K-9 operations, firearms training, visits to places such as the city’s wastewater treatment plant and the Dunn Public Works building.
“The group that I had, I couldn’t have had a better group,” Campbell said. “They were really receptive, really unafraid to engage the instructors. They wanted to know why we do things and how we do things.”
Lt. Clark White, who is the patrol supervisor for Dunn Police Department, said the academy provided a very good opportunity for the city and the police department to mingle with the public in a positive manner.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for the agency and the citizens of the city to interact and see things from a different side and open up some perspective to a different side of what is required of an officer these days,” he said. “There’s a huge amount of training these officers have to do the public knows nothing about, they have no idea.”
He said because of the rapidly evolving environment officers are a part of, the citizens academy allowed a glimpse into the environment.
“This job is ever-changing,” he said. “We have to stay ahead of the game on that kind of stuff.”
White emphasized the department’s desire to see the program expand and reach more citizens as the academy develops from its infancy.
“It’s the goal of the police chief to continue to enhance this program to make it better and better,” he said. “Carnell worked really hard on it and we got some really good feedback from the people.”
Using the feedback provided by the first class, Campbell will try to follow their suggestions to allow the program to evolve.
Questions to the new graduates ranged from what they liked about the program to what they didn’t like and what can be done to improve it for future classes.
“I don’t think any of them sent me any negative feedback,” Campbell said. “It was mostly, ‘I wish we could have done more of this’ or ‘spent longer doing this,’ that sort of thing.”
The academy was well organized from the administrative side, White said.
The administration is really happy with the way the class was conducted, he added.
“I think it’s pretty well put together the way he has it now,” White said. “I would love to have a little more time for us to be able to do more practical things with the group. But you don’t want to engage people for so long that you bore them. We try to limit and keep it as interesting as we can for the limited amount of time we have to work with.”
The amount of future classes is still up in the air. Campbell hopes to see the program take place at least two times each year. He said a decision on the next class and the frequency of those classes will be made later.
“The chances are good (it will be twice a year). A lot of it depends on the workload we have,” White said. “Carnell is a man who wears a lot of hats. He has a lot going on. The longer we have to plan it out, probably the easier it will be to plan it out.”
Applications for the next class will be handled in similar fashion as the inaugural academy. Applications are available from the Dunn Police Activities and Athletic League website, the Dunn Police Department website or at the front desk of the Police Department.
Cadets must be 18 years old at the time of application, a city of Dunn resident or have an interest in the city of Dunn itself.
A standard background check will be conducted on each applicant.
“If you’re interested, apply. We’d love to have you,” White said. “This is a part of our community outreach and enhancement team and gives people the chance to see things they might not otherwise see.”