Editor’s Note: Sandy Springs Together periodically publishes letters or comments from community members who raise a concern we feel should be considered by the broader community.
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By Melody Kelley
I was pleased to learn that part of the Sandy Springs Police Department’s (SSPD) nearly $23 million dollar annual budget gets poured back into the community through programs like the Citizens Police Academy (CPA), Citizens on Patrol (COPS), and a range of other volunteer and training programs.
I recently took advantage of SSPD’s nine-week CPA course – the first cohort since COVID disrupted operations. Held on Tuesday evenings, I and 12 eager members of the community gathered in person (socially distanced, of course) for an intimate and in-depth look at where much of that $23 million dollars is spent.
I highly recommend this experience to all residents of Sandy Springs and here are 3 reasons why:
- The Information: Did you know that Sandy Springs has one of the few full-service police departments in the area? Or that our Belgian Malinois K-9s actually come from Belgium? Each week is jammed-packed with facts, figures, and hands-on learning experiences. You even get to fight crime (virtually) in a Firearm Training Simulator (F.A.T.S.).
- The Ride-Along: The CPA experience isn’t complete without the much-anticipated ride-along. Each participant gets to choose their preferred shift in the patrol unit. While those who long for action opted for evenings, I chose a quiet Saturday morning because above all else, I desired conversation and connection. I split my shift between the North and South districts getting to know officers Davis and Sangster, respectively. I walked away feeling fortunate to have officers that care about the community they serve and wondering how 6 hours passed so quickly.
- The Dialogue: The CPA offers weekly access to the leaders in our department. But it also offers a safe space to interact with them. From social justice to the personal lives of officers, no conversation was off-limits. Questions were encouraged and addressed in a tone that I can only describe as professional transparency.
- Bonus Reason: Chief DeSimone’s (corny) jokes- have you heard the one about his zipper? HILARIOUS!
In our current hyper-political climate, the value of programs like the SSPD’s Citizen Police Academy cannot be overstated. I entered the program with a combination of curiosity and frustration as it relates to law enforcement. I left with a stronger sense of community.
For more information, please reach out to Sgt. Mendel Stafford, firstname.lastname@example.org.