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Lexington 52nd Citizen Police Academy Class Graduates

Since April, reporter Chase Cavanaugh has been writing about Lexington’s Citizen Police Academy.  In this final article, he discusses the graduation of the spring class and their experiences with the program.

On May 20th, over 50 individuals graduated from the Citizen Police Academy.  Run by Lexington’s Division of Police,, the program provides classroom instruction and hands on experience with various aspects of law enforcement.  In the past 12 weeks, the class has visited local prisons, conducted mock building searches, and even rode with officers on patrol.  Some participants, such as Jake Barrish, joined the academy to get a clearer view of police operations.      

“There’s a big difference between what they teach you at Eastern and what actually happens in the real world, and it really helps close that gap," he said.

Other simply wanted to expand on their existing knowledge.  Holly Martin is married to an LPD sergeant, and says the classes helped her gain a greater appreciation for what her husband goes through.  

“There were so many things I didn’t know, like I had no idea that within seconds, someone with a knife could stab an officer before he even withdraw his weapon.  I had no idea how important the K9 dogs were in building searches and narcotics, I really did learn a lot,” she said.

The graduation ceremony took place at the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.  Following a hearty meal, the class heard from various senior staff  of the LPD.  Among those was Assistant Chief Dwayne Holman, who advised participants to take what they have learned, and use it to foster better community relations. 

“Always remember the things that you’ve experienced, to always see police officers as part of the community.  We aren’t above it, we don’t stand off from it in any certain way.  We have a sacred trust, to recognize the sacred trust that they have granted to police officers., to always keep that in mind,” he said. 

They also heard from members of CPA’s alumni association, some of whom had had assisted with previous classes.  Officer Debbie Wagner, the CPA’s coordinator, says members serve several roles, including volunteering for police-themed events, acting as instructors for future classes, and advocating for the academy itself. 

“You have hundreds and hundreds of people that belong to the alumni association and there have been thousands and thousands of citizens that have graduated from the Citizen Police Academy, so it just grows and grows and they’re ambassadors, and even though they might not come back for an alumni meeting, they’re out there spreading the word,” she said.

Following these speeches, each classmember received a certificate commemorating their achievements, signed by Wagner and Chief Barnard.  With the main ceremonies concluded, they reflected on what they would do next.  Barrish thinks he may join the force after finishing his criminal justice degree, while Martin will stick with the program a bit longer.

“I know I’ll say a prayer every time I drive past an officer who is on a traffic stop; I didn’t realize how dangerous they could be, and I’ll probably go through the master’s class at some point,” she said.

This 52nd class’s graduation also marks the end of an era, as Officer Wagner, who has led CPA since its inception in 1997, is retiring from the force.  She gave a heartfelt farewell to the 52nd class, as well as alumni from previous years.  She also remains optimistic towards CPA’s new coordinator, as well as her own future plans. 

“Well I always say when one door closes, that a couple more doors open.   I have no idea, no plans right now, but I’m sure that God will lead me on the right path,” she said.

More information on the Citizen Police Academy, which is offered three times per year, can be found online.

Previous articles in this series can be found here, here, and here.

Chase Cavanaugh first got on the air as a volunteer reader for Central Kentucky Radio Eye, a local news service for the visually impaired. He began reporting for WUKY in February 2012, after receiving his Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce.
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