By Jen Newman
The Southampton Town Police Department will bring back its Civilian Police Academy training program next year—and a local nonprofit is focusing on getting members of the Latino community to participate.
The 12-week program, which will start in March 2017, will enable residents to learn firsthand how local law enforcement operates. Members of this intensive training will also explore the challenges and dangers of being a police officer, including by taking part in a ride-along with a veteran officer at the end of the program. Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Susan Ralph, who will be in charge of the Civilian Police Academy, said the classes will be taught at department headquarters and involve classroom lectures on law as well as practical and hands-on experience with the techniques officers use to protect themselves, as well as to enforce DWI laws.
“This will allow the community to bridge the gap between the police and the community we serve and allow citizens to experience what we experience,” Lt. Ralph said. “I think it is very important with what is going on across the country.”
OLA, the Organización Latino-Americana—a nonprofit agency that works to inform, empower and celebrate Long Island’s East End Latino and Hispanic communities—is encouraging Latinos to participate in the program in order to open up communication with law enforcement officials.
Although the department has not officially started sign-ups, OLA is putting together its own list of applicants for the program. The Civilian Police Academy was previously run yearly under the name “Citizens Police Academy,” which has since been changed to “civilians” to include the entire community, according to OLA’s executive director, Minerva Perez.
She said the program is important not only to teach the community what goes into being an officer but also to build trust and improve communication between the department and residents.
“We want the community to understand what police are involved in,” she said. “We all have the same goal in mind—we want this to be a safe community for everyone.”
Recently, Southampton Town appointed a new bilingual police officer, Julian Davila, who is now in the police academy, and who grew up in Hampton Bays.
“I think it’s important that we have diversity within our department and Julian, I think, will be an excellent member of the department,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said after the Town Board unanimously passed a resolution to appoint the new officer.
Ms. Perez will also lead the Latino portion of the six-week training diversity training sessions for police officers in the winter. She said she hopes to make it lively, engaging and most of all effective.
Lt. Ralph said official applications for the civilian academy will be available in January. Those who would like to get on OLA’s list for the academy, or to learn more it, can reach Ms. Perez at Olaexecdir@gmail.com.