The Orlando Police Department in Florida was the first city to start a Citizen Police Academy in the United States in 1985 and the classes were a week long. In the same year Missouri City and Texas joined in and adopted the concept. Today, you will find Citizen Police Academy programs throughout the United States in communities large and small. Today over half of every police department in the United States have some form of a Citizen Police Academy.
Grand Prairie’s first Citizen Police Academy started in September 28, 1989 under the leadership of Chief Harry Crum (Ret). Deputy Chief Charlie Miller (Ret), Sgt. Bill Erter (Ret) and Sgt. Doug Clancy (Ret) were very instrumental in starting the first Grand Prairie CPA program. These retired Grand Prairie Police Officers had a great vision for Grand Prairie and have left a legacy for others to build upon in the future. Officer Juan Almazan has been involved in the CPA program since 2000.
The first CPA class had 31 students. By February of 2000 Grand Prairie was already in their 12th class and had enrolled 342 residents. In its inception, the CPA was started to supplement the Citizen Volunteer Program and the C.O.P (Citizen on Patrol) program organized by Officer Dennis Meyer.
The CPA was one of several programs under the Crime Prevention Unit and Community Policing Division supervised by Sgt. Bill Erter. CPA also led to forming other groups like Citizen Awareness and Participation (CAP). Officer Juan Almazan was one of the main instructors in this program. VALEA (Volunteer Augmentation Law Enforcement Association) training developed by citizen volunteer Nahum Tate and Reserve Officer Tammi (Smart) Ratterree. Graduates from the Citizen Police Academy started volunteering in various areas of the Grand Prairie Police Department. CPA members worked in the C.I.D. unit entering information on the computer, this program helped track stolen property being pawned.
Throughout the years of mid 90’s into the years of 2000 the CPA volunteers gave hundreds of hours manning and helping in the 5 store fronts throughout the city. They worked with the officers as receptionist, setting up Crime Watch Programs, Special Crime Prevention Events and helping out with School Safety Programs (i.e Safe Side City, Mc Gruff Stranger Danger) and the short lived Police Athletic Baseball League. CPA members helped establish a free lunch, reading and study summer programs at the North East Store front until it was closed down.
In the late 90’s the first CPA Alumni Association was started. This program dwindled down in interest after a few years. In 2005, Lt Dennis Clay generated renewed interest among the graduates of the latter CPA classes. Today’s CPA Alumni Association continues to grow as more opportunities to help open up throughout the department. These included manning the Skybox Towers, working in the Jail, working special assignments at Joe Pool Lake and supplementing volunteers for the newly revamped Citizen on Patrol. Under Chief Dye’s watch CPA participants started going to the gun range to shoot and experience the Tactical Driving course.
The main focus of the Citizen Police Academy has always been twofold.
· First, to introduce and create an understanding of how and why the Grand Prairie Police Department works the way it does.
· Secondly, by acquainting the citizen with their police department. It creates a sense of confidence by demonstrating the professionalism of men and women in the Grand Prairie Police Department, as they Serve and Protect the citizen of Grand Prairie.