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, recognizing types of drugs and investigating crime scenes. The class will take field trips to the courthouse to talk to a judge and review judicial procedures. A representative of the state's attorney's office will tell the class about search-and-seizure warrants.
Each participant also will schedule a ride-along with a uniformed patrol officer. They will conclude their experience with a role-playing scenario that will test what they have learned in their classes, such as a simulated bank robbery.
Most classes will take place at the police station, but class members also will train at the Army National Guard armory on Hahn Road and the state's police training commission firing range in Sykesville.
No one will leave the program as a sworn officer or will be tapped to pinch-hit at the station.
"They're not going be expected to jump off of buildings," Brewer said. "But they will get a condensed version of everything we go through."
Westminster has a 43-person department with a mix of veterans and younger officers, many of whom graduated from police academies in Westminster, Baltimore, Hagerstown and Pennsylvania.
The next round of classes for the residents academy will start in the spring.