The five graduates of the inaugural Citizens Police Academy will help the Bexley Police Department gauge what the agency does well and what it could do better, according to Chief Larry Rinehart.
"They will be the inaugural foundation of our alumni association" of future academy graduates, Rinehart said during Bexley City Council's Dec. 10 meeting.
"What we hope to do over a couple of years is gather together periodically," he added. "They'll be a sounding board for us, they'll be a brain trust for us when we try to do different things, launch different initiatives, or have obstacles, problems."
Graduates Michael Butler, Michael Johnson, Lee Nathans and Paul Kaltenecker received completion certificates during the meeting. Another graduate, Michael McKinney, wasn't able to attend.
The class met every Tuesday night for 10 weeks this fall with a focus on a variety of department procedures, including how officers investigate crime scenes and conduct patrol operations.
The academy was made possible by a $5,000 grant from the Bexley Community Foundation and was designed "as a relationship-builder in our community, to ... walk them through how we do business, the way we do business, but to also open ourselves up to their input and their thoughts," Rinehart said.
Rinehart said Deputy Chief Bryan Holbrook and Sgt. Dawn Overly-Sheterom coordinated instruction, with about 15 of the department's 38 officers participating.
"Officers who have been here for a long time came up, gave lots of instruction," Rinehart said.
Johnson said his participation in the academy gave him an understanding of the department's training techniques, equipment and technology as well as the staff's dedication to their jobs.
"Everyone had the highest level of professionalism, knowledge and really were proud to be part of the police department," he said. "We can all feel secure in what they do. They work very hard and I think they contribute significantly to the high quality of life in Bexley."
Nathans encouraged council members to attend the academy's next session, which is scheduled for fall 2014.
"As you know, the police department is a very significant portion of the city budget," he said. "For you to understand the operation and continue your dedication to improving this department through your leadership and your understanding can be very valuable to the citizens of the community."