Huntersville residents have two opportunities to get a more in-depth understanding of town workings.
Huntersville 101 and the Huntersville Police Departments Citizen Police Academy program are both accepting applications from residents interested in how town government and its departments function.
Huntersville 101 is a free, eight-week program with room for 20 participants, said coordinator and management assistant Bobby Williams. Its genesis was from the sheer amount of growth (in Huntersville), Williams said. Local government in North Carolina works differently than it does in other states.
The weekly meetings feature field trips with department heads who can explain their role in town processes and the services it provides. Topics range from how the annual budget is put together in finance to how Parks and Recreation, police, fire, planning and transportation operate, plus current projects theyre working on, said Williams.
Resident Jerry Jacobus, 76, said hes lived in Huntersville nearly 11 years and signed up for Huntersville 101 in 2011. I was certainly interested in what was going on and finding out a bit more about it. The sessions were terrific, I was duly impressed, he said. (The town and its departments) were taking good care of the money, doing it with less people and doing very positive things that will help us in the long run.
Jacobus said he would recommend Huntersville 101 to anyone with an interest in local civics. If theyre interested in whats going on, and want to find out about your community, its a fabulous way.
Jacobus said once he completed Huntersville 101 he decided to take a closer look at the police department by joining its citizen academy.
Sgt. Tom Seifert said the free, 10-week course helps advance the relationship between the department and the public through better understanding. Were really community-oriented and put an emphasis being part of the community, Seifert said.
In the six years the academy has been offered, Seifert said it helps to put faces with uniforms and officer instructors often see former students out in the community. They have great relationships going forward.
The program covers topics from identity theft to crime scene forensics; K-9 operations and myths about the department, most in interactive scenarios, Seifert said. Its not strictly go in and get lectured. Its more hands-on now. That, I feel, made the program better.
This will be the first session of the citizens police academy to be held at the police departments new and larger facility, which is an advance in itself, said Seifert. The (old) facility held us back in a sense. Just the tour of the building, last year it took three minutes, now it takes about an hour, he said.
Dan Boone, 63, is the chairperson of Shepherds Vineyard neighborhood watch. Boone attended the academy earlier this year to learn more about keeping his part of the community safe.
(Its) a way to give back to my neighborhood and make it a little better place to live, Boone said.
Boone said one of his favorite parts of the academy was attending a ride-along with an officer on duty, participating in simulated SWAT team and hostage negotiation assignments and meeting with the District Attorney.
I got tenfold more than I ever expected to get out of it, said Boone, noting if theres room in the upcoming session, he plans to attend citizens academy again. I wasnt expecting to get that out of the class, it was so interesting.
Newly-appointed town board member Jeff Neely is also a graduate of the citizen police academy and said he left with a deeper appreciation for the challenges the department faces.
It shows in a changing world how a police department has to be up to date to be professional and provide the level of protection necessary in the community, Neely said.
Were fortunate in Huntersville, we have a very professional and highly-trained police force. You understand their organizational values and what they believe in. Honor. Professionalism and dedication. You cant come through this 10 weeks and not really appreciate that we have a police department thats dedicated to their professional values.
Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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