Residents who attend Gainesville Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy next month will get the chance to find out.

“The school is something that is beneficial to anybody that wants to be involved in the community and (wants to) understand what’s going on. The instructors put their heart and soul in the classes. (Citizens) will learn things they cannot get from any TV show,” Gainesville Police Department Chief Carl Dunlap said.

Dunlap said he believes it has been about four years since the department last held a citizen police academy.

Attending the academy — an 11 week program slated to begin at 7 - 9 p.m., Jan. 29 at the public safety building, 201 Santa Fe St. — can increase the public’s knowledge about crime, safety and the local police department.

Classes will meet for two hours one night per week for 11 weeks.

“We have a long history of citizen police academies. Gainesville was one of the first to start one,” he said.

Dunlap said, “We actually had a citizen’s police academy planning event, on how to start the academy in 1994. Police officers from all over the U.S., including Hawaii, came to Gainesville to learn the art of citizen police academies — the ins and out, what to do, what not to do, how to form your alumni association, what to teach in the classes.”

From that planning event, a national citizen police academy was formed.

At that time, GPD’s crime prevention officer was Buck Tatum.

“He was really good,” Dunlap said of Tatum. “Buck was the very first president of that national association, and he served three or four years as a president and on the board of directors.”

He said Tatum got him involved in the program and he (Dunlap) taught symposiums all over the county “trying to share my experience with starting citizen’s police academies.”

Dunlap said GPD is still active in the national organization and is excited to be holding another citizen police academy in Gainesville.

“We want to do it again. We’re back in business,” he said.

He said the department is also interested in re-forming the alumni association and expanding volunteer programs that would allow graduates of the citizen police academies to use what they learn in their classes to help in the community.

The purpose of the citizen’s police academy is to teach residents about police patrol, communications, gang awareness, crime scene investigation, Texas law, firearms, family violence, narcotics investigation and crime prevention.

“It is our hope that the graduates of the Citizen’s Police Academy will become partners with us in identifying problems and solutions to the crime issues that are affecting our community,” GPD Captain Mark Brazelton said in a press release.

Residents who want to complete the program must be 18 years or older with a good standing in the community and either reside in or work in Cooke County.

For applications call (940) 668-4760 or pick up an application at the police department front desk in the public safety building on Santa Fe Street.

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