Graduates of Powell's Citizen Police Academy do not become official members of an elite crime-fighting force.

But they do gain insight into community policing and hear tips on crime prevention.

The city has been offering the free academy since 2010.

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"The Powell Police Department has held this program for a number of years," said police Chief Stephen Hrytzik. "It's a great way for our community to learn more about the police department and crime prevention."

"It's mostly to let citizens know what we do and how we do it," said officer Audrey Wilt, who has led the program for the past five years. "We try to provide a real insight into how community policing works."

This year's academy starts March 4, meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays for 10 weeks at the city's police station, 47 Hall St., and culminating in a graduation, complete with certificates and cake.

Wilt said different officers lead each session, based on their strengths and specialties. Topics include: crime prevention; traffic stops and driving while intoxicated; use of force and firearms (complete with a visit to a local gun range where participants can fire a gun); and K-9 policing. In addition, a CSI class lets participants use clues to try to solve a crime, and the Liberty Township Fire Department will offer a tour and basic CPR information.

Wilt said although the focus of the academy is not on certifying residents as crime fighters, the information is beneficial in many ways that impact awareness and investigation of crime in the city.

"I think it makes better witnesses because people are aware of their surroundings," Wilt said. "I know I have met people on calls who've been through the academy, and they often have a better understanding of the kinds of things that can help us."

Going through the academy produces camaraderie among participants, as well, if the existence of an alumni association is evidence.

Past participant and current alumni association president Andi Moore said meeting and learning from officers in person goes a long way toward making the community safer.

"You get a glimpse and appreciation of our police department and an understanding of why what they do is important," Moore said. "We're really fortunate to have this department in how they go about their business."

Moore said the academy is beneficial for residents and business owners in the city -- as well as anyone else who wants to continue learning, help the police and understand what the department does.

The alumni association meets regularly, inviting guest speakers on ongoing police- and crime-related topics. The group also volunteers at community events throughout the year.

For more information or to register for the Citizen Police Academy, go to tinyurl.com/powellpolice.

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