Citizens Police Academy draws increased enrollment

The Johnson County citizens police academy has seen a surge in enrollment for the 2019 session following changes to the length of the program.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

The Johnson County Citizens Police Academy has reached maximum enrollment capacity for the first time in recent memory. The academy, now in its 22nd year, combines the Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, and University of Iowa departments.

Fifty-one people enrolled in this years’ academy, and 11 had to be turned away because the academy had reached maximum capacity. Normally, the academy admits around 40 participants.

Adam Jennings, community relations officer for the Coralville police and a co-director of the Citizens Police Academy, said shortening the length of the program from 14 weeks to 10 could have contributed to increased enrollment.

“After last year’s class, the directors got together and discussed what we can do better, what changes we can make in the program, and at that point, it was decided that we would bring the program from 14 to 10 weeks to make it a little more attainable for people,” Jennings said. “We know folks are busy, and we don’t want to make people’s schedules stressful or more stressful. We want them to want to be there and not be thinking about when it’s time to go home and do something else.”

Ashten Hayes, the Iowa City police community-relations officer, said the academy helps participants gain a greater understanding of law enforcement in Johnson County.

“[Participants] get an opportunity to sit through a 10-week class and see what the police department is like behind the scenes, versus just seeing us on the street making a traffic stop, or going to an accident, or riding in our patrol car,” Hayes said. “They get to see the different types of things that we can do and offer to the community.”

Participants in the academy experience a wide range of speakers and activities related to law enforcement, including interacting with police canines and a tour of the Johnson County Jail. 

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Jennings said one of the best experiences is a simulation at the UI police in which participants decide whether to use deadly force. 

“The student gets to actually carry a firearm and would be put through a situation directed by one of the trainers,” he said. “They would have the opportunity to use deadly force or not use deadly force. That really draws a lot of conversation and even some emotion from people.”

The participants include a wide range of ages, from retired individuals to participants as young as 16, Jennings said. The academy also draws individuals from outside of Johnson County.

“I do believe the interest level in our particular area in law enforcement is fairly high,” Jennings said.

Alton Poole, community relations officer for the UI police, said the academy is a chance for police and citizens to cooperate. Poole said the department has even hired past participants in the academy who realize they want to pursue law enforcement after taking the course.

“My mantra is that the community is the police and police the community,” he said “When you think about it, police officers are not born with the uniform and the badge. Police officers come from all walks of life.”