Connecting to the Community: Local Law Enforcement Engages With CitizensJul 14, 2021 02:27PM ● By ANN MARIE O’PHELAN
Thanks to various community programs, youth and adults can participate in activities that help keep the community safe. Among these is the Cape Coral Police Department (CCPD), which offers a variety of ways that community members can get involved. One example is its Explorer program, designed for those who are 16 and older and want to learn about responsibility, duty, honor and the law. “This program is active and up and running,” says public affairs officer Patrick O’Grady. Also operational is the CCPD’s Do the Right Thing program, which recognizes students who are doing good things in the community. Each year, more than 100 students are given an award at their school for doing the right thing, such as collecting toys for underprivileged children, picking up litter or helping an elderly neighbor with chores.
CCPD also offers programs for adults. Twice a year, it runs the Citizens Police Academy, where enrollees attend a 10-week program and then participate in activities such as police communications and traffic safety.
“We also have an amazing volunteer unit. They help with so many situations,” says O’Grady. The volunteers can help direct traffic, patrol waterways, engage in parking enforcement and work at special events such as the Red, White, and BOOM! celebration on July 4. “Their volunteering to help our community saves the city thousands of dollars each year,” adds O’Grady.
The Fort Myers Police Department (FMPD) also offers a Citizen Police Academy, as well as an Explorer program for youth (ages 14-20); Police Athletic League (PAL) to provide youth with social, cultural, recreational and educational programs, events and activities; Volunteers in Policing (VIP) unit; and a Cadet program designed to identify and establish potential recruits for law-enforcement careers.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) organizes a Youth Activities League that provides safe sports and activities for Lee County youth. “The program promotes physical fitness, healthy self-esteem, learning new skills and social interaction in a positive setting,” says public information officer Nestor Montoya. The Youth Activities League hosts many programs for the community, including the two-day Teen Driver Challenge; the Explorers career exploration program; archery; and a Do the Right Thing program. “Our vision is to develop and implement youth-oriented activities through partnerships to have a positive impact in the community and our young people,” explains Montoya.
Adult members of the public are invited to learn about the sheriff’s office by attending the popular Citizens Academy, where participants get a first-hand look at how the LCSO enforces the law. The academy is a 12-week program with (reduced-size) classes held on Tuesday nights from 6:00-9:15 pm. Class size is limited. There is no cost to attend.
Classes are designed to enhance understanding, communication and partnerships between citizens and the LCSO. Highlights include presentations from the following units: SWAT, aviation, major crimes, corrections, public information and economic crimes. Demonstrations include underwater operations, K9 and the bomb squad. Participants also receive gun-safety training at the Lee County Gun Range.
The Naples Police Department (NPD) offers its Citizen’s Police Academy, designed to offer insight into police practices and services through demonstrations and hands-on exercises. (Although 2021 was canceled, check the website for news about 2022 at naplesgov.com/police/page/citizens-police-academy.) The NPD also offers a Do the Right Thing program for school-aged children in the community to reinforce positive behavior and help build self-esteem.
Many law-enforcement agencies offer public-safety workshops, including the Sanibel Police Department, which conducts seminars at the Sanibel Recreation Center (3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road; 239-472-0345). Check for the upcoming schedule at mysanibel.com.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and regular contributor to TOTI Media.
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