Want to know more about your local police department? Ever wondered if a cop’s job is really like it is on TV? Interested in opportunities for law enforcement careers? See if your city/county has a citizens police academy.
Police departments offer the CPA as a way to keep in touch with the local community, foster good relationships, build public trust, and enhance civilians’ understanding of police operations and challenges.
I was lucky enough to be accepted to Fairfax County’s 20th CPA group, and had my first class tonight. The Chief of Police talked about department workforce statistics, his biggest crime concerns, and some of the challenges the department faces in finances and recruiting.
After a quick break, we got a tour of the Criminal Justice Academy where all recruits train. In addition to classrooms, a well-equipped gym, and a martial arts training area, the academy has a small “city street” with mock ups of various businesses for the trainees to practice responding to situations in different environments. There are also mock house/apartment interiors, a third-grade classroom, and an auto parts store.
One of the academy instructors, a master police officer, went over the application requirements, what types of standards and testing the recruits go through, the rank structure, how the department is organized (both physically and the org chart), where the money comes from, and some statistics on crime and officer deaths.
We also got an interesting overview of the department’s history. My favorite part was the newspaper clipping of the county’s first female police officer (1946). She worked as a dispatcher, and the caption under her photo read “First pretty cop”. It wasn’t until the 1950s that women served as detectives, and women didn’t go on patrol until the 1970s!
Both nationwide and in Fairfax County, female officers make up about 12% of the police force. I was surprised. That’s even lower than the military (with the exception of the Marines: ~6%). The good news in my county is that there are a fair number of women in supervisory and command positions, so maybe that visibility will help with future recruitment.
Tonight was just the overview and it was fascinating. Future classes look to be even more interesting, and at some point, I should be able to do a ride-along. I can’t wait to share the experiences with you!