Community Invited to Join Civilian Police Academy

For the second straight year, local residents are being encouraged to sign up for the Southampton Town Police Department's civilian academy. The 14-week course, with one night class per week, starts Jan. 24. While Southampton Town residents are given preference, residents from other East End towns and villages will be admitted, pending availability of seating. Several residents of East Hampton participated in classes held earlier this year.

Minerva Perez, the executive director of Organizacion Latino-Americana, took the course earlier this year and encourages residents from all communities to participate. "It is a phenomenal and in-depth program covering all different aspects of policing at the local and county levels," she said Monday.

It also is an invaluable opportunity for police and members of the community to interact, Lt. Susan Ralph of the Southampton Town police said recently. It was Lt. Ralph who helped bring the program back earlier this year after a hiatus of several years. "We melded together and grew together. We all became friends," Lt. Ralph said about the police and community members who were previously involved in the program. "It is a tremendous amount of work, but it is well worth it," she added.

The students learn about different areas of policing. Lt. Ralph listed some of the class topics: laws covering arrests, rules of search and the seizure of evidence, violence, narcotics, gang violence, and drunken driving. The instructors include detectives, sergeants and lieutenants from the uniformed division, an officer from the county's K9 division, and even an officer from Marine Patrol. Students also do a squad car ride-along with an officer on patrol, and take part in a live-video simulation of a potentially violent confrontation.

The latter experience was extremely helpful for Ms. Perez's understanding of such potential confrontations. "You have an interactive screen and you have your weapon.

It is very in the moment, and it feels very real: when to use your weapon, and the speed with which you have to make that decision."

Ms. Perez strongly encourages members of the Latino community to get involved in the upcoming classes, which have a maximum size of 25. The classroom interaction between police and the community "builds respect, on both sides," she said.

To receive an application, those interested should send an email Lt. Ralph at Applications must be returned by Dec. 27.