JOPLIN, Mo. – Opposite of the ‘Defund the Police’ trend, the Joplin community is actually strengthening the bond between the police department and its citizens via their popular community outreach program, the Citizens Police Academy.
The Citizens Police Academy is a 14 week program that strives to strengthen the bond between the Joplin Police Department and the community by allowing citizens to learn more about the department’s procedures, training and protocols.
Participants in the Citizens Police Academy meet for a few hours one night a week to learn about various aspects of police officers’ jobs. The program is a hands-on and interactive experience that teaches participants about vehicle stops, weapons training, community policing, narcotics enforcement, SWAT and crime scene tactical training, among other things.
“The Citizens Police Academy is a program that the Joplin Police Department holds twice a year and it’s open to citizens of Joplin who want to learn more about the police department and what we do in terms of operations and community outreach,” Assistant Chief of Police Brian Lewis said.
“It’s really just an in-depth look at the day to day operations of the police department.”
The 14 week program is hosted by the Support Services Bureau of Joplin PD – once in the spring and once in the fall – and the classes are taught by community engagement officers at no cost to the participant.
Participants must be at least 21 years old and able to pass a background check to sign up. Each weekly session is also limited to 25 participants, so the police department encourages those interested to get their applications submitted as soon as possible.
Joplin Mayor Ryan Stanley says it’s one of the best programs for community outreach and detailed the high demand and popularity the program yields within the community.
“There are many things that our police department does to engage with the community and this is something that we do really well,” Stanley said. “I’ve never heard anybody say anything other than positive comments about how enjoyable it was and how much appreciation [the academy] created for the work our police officers do.”
“We have a finite number of openings and availability for it and I’ve never seen us not have a full class – and we’ve been doing it for years,” Stanley noted.
The Citizens Police Academy was started in Joplin in the 1990s and has flourished for over two decades. This fall will mark the academy’s 54th class of graduates.
According to their website, those interested in the program do not necessarily have to be a Joplin resident to sign up. However, if the classes begin to fill up and spots are limited, preference may be rewarded to those who are residents.
Lewis believes that the academy not only helps expand citizens’ knowledge of the police officers’ jobs, but it also adds a perspective that they may not have experienced before.
“Most people may never have an encounter with a police officer and a lot of times when you do, you’re not having a very good day,” Lewis said. “You’re either being pulled over for a traffic violation, or you may be a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime – or even a suspect in a crime.
“So the purpose of the Citizens Police Academy is for us to give our citizens insight on how our police department operates and what officers experience in day to day operations. It’s one of those things that serves as a bridge between our police department and the citizens that we serve.”
Additionally, Stanley believes the vast interest of the program shows excitement for the learning opportunity, but it also showcases an appreciation for the police department throughout the community.
“I think it speaks to the demand for the opportunity but I think it also speaks to the reverence Joplin has for our police department,” Stanley said. “The police department has sounded the call many times asking for support from the community, and the community has always been quick to respond because of how much we appreciate what they do for us.”
Joplin PD encourages those interested in the program to sign up alongside a friend or family member as they often have siblings, husbands/wives, or parents with their adult children take the class together. To apply for the Citizens Police Academy, individuals can sign up here or call 417-623-3131 for further information.