The ten members of the graduating class of the Summerville Police departmentís Citizenís Police Academy arenít exactly brand new street cops, but they will undoubtedly be an asset to the town and the department.

At a special dinner and ceremony held Nov. 9 at Oscarís, SPD Chief Bruce Owens and Lt. Jimmy Bateman, who coordinated the academy, presented the participants with certificates of completion as well as SPD uniform patches and special challenge coins.

Those tokens represent far more than just time spent in classes, judging from the reactions of the participants.

Mark Ray, who actually participated in the Citizens Police Academy program the department hosted in 1995, said he found this one to be very well organized and executed.

ìAll in all, I thought it was excellent,î Ray said. ìThis one was much more thorough and informative than last time.î

Jerry Wilkat, a former New York City Housing Authority Police Officer, agreed.

ìIt was great ñ very to the point,î he said.

SPDís first Citizenís Police Academy in fifteen years concluded at the end of October.

The purpose of the Citizenís Police Academy is to provide citizens who live or work in Summerville a better understanding of the job knowledge, skills, and abilities required of the modern day law enforcement officer. The academy consisted of about 12 weeks of classes on a wide spectrum of subjects, from law enforcement history in general and constitutional law to investigative techniques, self defense and officer survival, patrol procedures, even live demonstrations of the use of such weapons as the Taser and O.C. spray.

ìIt was so interesting to learn about some of the techniques of law enforcement,î noted Beverly Watson.

The class was not meant to be coursework to train to become a police officer, although the department does have classes ñ the Reserve Officer Program most notably -- for that if people are interested.

ìThe course has been informative, enlightening, exciting, and just plain cool!î Art and Anne Shields said. ìWe learned so much during these 11 weeks and developed a whole new respect for the SPD and the job the individual officers and support staff do every day.î

Writing about the experience in their neighborhood newsletter, the Shields noted that too often police officers get a ìbad rapî for some of the actions they take. What people forget, they said, is the officersí two ultimate goals every day while on the job are one, protect the public with the least amount of force necessary and two, go home safely at the end of their shift.

ìWe learned that these officers are extremely well educated -- and their education is ongoing as the bad guys develop new scenarios to inflict harm,î they said. ìWe learned about crime prevention and how officers defuse dangerous situations all the while putting themselves in harmís wayÖand we learned just how passionate they are about their jobs and how compassionate they are in the community.î

ìI think it is something everyone should take advantage of if they can,î Susan Keller said. ìIt really helped me understand what the police department does and I think itís a wonderful opportunity for the community.î

Betty Bell has a number of connections to the department and to police work. Her son-in-law and nephew are officers with SPD; her late husband, also a Summerville Police Officer, was killed in the line of duty.

ìAs much as Iíve been around it, after taking this class, it just makes me respect them even more,î she said.

SPD Chief Bruce Owens said he was pleased with how the class turned out and hopes to have even greater enrollment for the next academy.

ìWe hope you have enjoyed the classes, but just as important, we hope you all have a greater insight into what we do and can tell others,î Owens said.  ìI want to thank you all for being part of the Citizens Police Academy.î

Cheryl Grooms said she enjoyed the class and would be interested in taking further classes, should they be offered. She also said she would encourage people to participate if they get the opportunity.

ìIt was very informative  -- I learned so much,î she said. ìI would highly recommend it.î