Westminster Police Department will give up to 10 people inside access to local law enforcement starting tonight, when it offers its first Citizen Police Academy.
For the next nine Tuesday nights, local businesspeople and others in the class will get a primer on the department's history and structure and law enforcement techniques such as conducting arrests and self-defense.
In the three-hour sessions, they will try on the accessories officers wear: bulletproof vests, gun belts and handcuffs. They will learn how to shoot a revolver.
"These classes will give them insight as to why we do what we do," said police spokesman Dean A. Brewer. "We hope to build a stronger relationship between the police and the community."
The idea for the course began in the spring, when Sgt. Michael Bible applied for a grant from the governor's office to promote educational, hands-on sessions to the public and promote voluntarism. At a Common Council meeting in July, Westminster Councilman Roy L. Chiavacci announced that the Police Department had received a $3,000 grant to run the program this fall.
Law-enforcement agencies in Howard, Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties are among those that have used such civilian academies to bridge the gap between the community and the police.
This month, Westminster police sent more than 30 letters of invitation to the program to Carroll County residents.
Brewer said that applicants, who had to be county residents and at least age 18, went through a screening process that involved a background check to eliminate anyone with a criminal record. Ten people replied: six women and four men, mostly local businesspeople.
He said Bible, the community education officer, will be chief instructor and that other officers will be tapped for topics such as operating radar guns.