People in Surfside beach will get to take a closer look into the police department beginning this summer with the launching of the town’s first Citizen’s Police Academy.
Police Chief Rodney Keziah said Tuesday that the program is the first step towards improved community involvement.
“It’s a way to get the community more involved in the police department and get the police department more involved in the community,” he said. “It’s a win-win for both of us. They get to see how police operations work and we get to see it from their perspective. Sometimes their perspective can help us change our operations to suit the public more.”
According to the city of Myrtle Beach’s website, hundreds of residents have completed a Citizens Police Academy there since it began in 2000.
The Surfside Beach CPA will launch in July and will be a six week course open to residents, property owners and anyone employed in Surfside Beach. Applications will be available on the town’s website the first week of June, Keziah said. The classes will run from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday evenings from July 12 to Aug. 15.
Students will be selected by a committee in the department after background checks are complete.
Councilwoman Beth Kohlmann, who formerly worked for the New York Police Department, said the program is a great opportunity for the community.
“I’m beyond excited,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the people to see how the police actually work and for the police officers to get to know the people they serve.”
Community involvement, she said, is key.
“It’s probably one of the most important things you can do in law enforcement because the community is out there all the time,” she said. “I like to look at it as the eyes and ears of the department.”
The curriculum is still being developed, but Keziah said students will get to learn about community watch programs, crash investigations and crime scene investigations. Additionally, each student will be offered a ride-along with a Surfside Beach police officer while on patrol. The ride-along will not be required for graduation from the course.
Keziah said the CPA isn’t meant to train people in Surfside Beach to be cops and it will not result in any certification.
Kohlmann said the community involvement could lead to better crime reporting.
“People may not realize the Boston bombing [suspect] was caught because of community involvement,” she said. “It’s not meddling. They’re actually helping to keep their community safer by being aware of things around them. That was a major arrest [in Boston], a great job by everybody, but without the community doing what they did it could’ve dragged on longer.”
Keziah hopes that giving the community access to the Surfside Beach Police Department will show the inner-workings of the agency.
“A lot of times people have a predetermined stereotypes of what police operations are and we hope that the students going through and seeing what our operations are really about that somehow we can overcome those predetermined stereotypes.”
Kohlmann agreed that’s a possible outcome.
“I think it will rid a lot of notions about the police,” she said. “Sometimes people just don’t realize how busy it can be. It will give the community a different look at police officers.”
To join the inaugural class, visit surfsidebeach.org the first week of June to apply. For more information, call 913-6368.