Police taking sign-ups for Citizens Academy

Police Chief David Westrick said the 10-week academy is designed to give residents a look at how the police department works, from the inside out

Hollister Police Chief David Westrick took to Facebook on May 2 to announce that the Police Citizens Academy will begin Aug. 10 and that people can apply by going to the city’s website.

To be eligible to attend the academy, a person must be at least 18 years old, have no felony convictions, and be a citizen of San Benito County.

“The purpose of the academy is to introduce citizens of our community to law enforcement, specifically what we do at the Hollister PD,” Westrick said. “It’s 10 weeks and every week is a different subject matter. We have our own officers and other public safety professionals that will be teaching these classes.”

The academy is designed to be interactive and the 25 students will sometimes venture out of the classroom.

“When we have a K-9 demo we would have the students involved,” Westrick said. “When we do a Taser class, the students would be involved with the Tasers. In use-of-force or defensive tactics, we would have the role-playing done by the students. Students will go out to the range and fire guns, we will have them do crime scene and discover evidence techniques.”

Citizens' academies have been around for a number of years throughout the country, but the Hollister Police Department has not held one in some 20 years, according to Westrick. He said other police departments for which he has worked always held the academies.

“I thought it was time that we give our citizens the experience of what we do in the community,” he said. “It’s an important community policing tool and they will know exactly what we’re doing and can answer questions to other community members.”

The class guidelines for the academy were developed in-house for nearly a year, the chief said.

Other than the minimum requirements for applying, Westrick said the application includes a section in which the applicant tells why they want to attend the academy. He said the applications are first evaluated for eligibility, and then they’re subjectively graded on overall compatibility.

“We want to have 25 people who are genuinely interested in our line of work, our community, our agency because the hope is that this will be the first of many classes,” he said.  

Upon completion of the academy, there will be a graduation ceremony on Oct. 5.

“The biggest thing they will get out of it is understanding from the inside a government agency and how we do pretty much everything,” Westrick said. “I want to give people a good view of how we operate internally and externally.”

While the minimum age is 18, there is no maximum age requirement. Westrick said the department will accommodate physically disabled individuals as much as possible, but if there is an activity they cannot do, they will not be asked to participate.

“That’s not an issue,” he said. “Our whole facility is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]