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February 15, 2005 > A lesson in Civics

A lesson in Civics

Newark Citizen Police Academy

by Venkat Raman

Most of us are perhaps happy to not have direct interaction with a police officer - invariably it means we are on the wrong end of a traffic infraction. Equally daunting is the prospect of needing the aid of a police officer, which can mean that we are in real trouble. Yet it is the very institution of the police force that allows us to lead a peaceful life. If we educate ourselves on how the men and women of our police force do their job, we can gain an appreciation for the service we receive from them, and we may even become motivated to help out in the process.

The Newark Police Department runs a Citizen Police Academy program designed to provide community members with an inside look at local law enforcement. This 10-week course meets once a week on Wednesdays from 6 to 9:30 p.m. There is a lot of material covered in this course and the curriculum is similar to the Police Academy, but is kept at an appropriate level for civilians.

Terri Hernandez of the Newark Police Department supervises the coordination for the academy, from the initial contact to graduation. Applications from prospective participants are collected and the chief of police selects the eligible candidates. Class size is kept to around 20 for this yearly course. The department is currently accepting applications for the next academy that is scheduled to begin on March 16.

There are specific requirements to be able to apply for this program: you must be at least 21 years old, live or work in the city of Newark and have no prior felony convictions or misdemeanor arrests within a year prior to applying.

Though some of the information presented may be fairly straightforward, it is likely that the finer points of law are also discussed. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and make it a lively interaction. Usual favorites for lessons are visits to the firing range, where participants can practice with police firearms, and K-9 demonstrations from service dogs. Topics include Use of Force, Patrol Procedures, Traffic, Investigations including gangs, narcotics and crimes against persons and property, as well as a S.W.A.T demonstration. Other topics that are covered include Crime Prevention and the Volunteer Program. All participants will have an opportunity to ride along in a patrol car with a police officer on an actual shift.

"One of the goals of the Citizen Police Academy is to facilitate an effective police-community partnership that includes open and honest communication," said Ray Samuels, chief of the Newark Police Department.

If you are interested in participating in the academy, contact Terri Hernandez at (510) 794-2352 or send an email to, or visit

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