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Over the next 10 weeks, the Gabber will report from each session of the 2017 Gulfport Citizen’s Police Academy.

The 2017 Gulfport Citizen’s Police Academy began January 19 and is designed to help police “build trust, solve crimes and make a better quality of life for everyone,” said Community Resource Officer Zack Mills, one of two coordinators.

The first of 11 weekly sessions was held at the city’s police department and featured Chief Robert Vincent detailing their history, hiring and retention practices, and accreditation awards.

In June 2015, the department earned the Excelsior designation after passing a rigorous review process from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA). According to the state group, the program “recognizes some of the finest criminal justice agencies in the State of Florida.”

According to the workbook from the academy, only three other law enforcement agencies in Pinellas County – Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg – are CFA accredited.

This is the fourth year Mills has been coordinating academy experiences.
“We do a lot of field trips,” he said.

The most popular among past participants is the vehicle-driving experience where “we give them a chance to do the different exercises such as backing and evasive maneuvers” on the law enforcement training course, said Mills. In addition, participants can ride along on the pursuit course while trained officers chase each other.

Other popular field trips include operating fire arms at the shooting range, visiting the county jail and 911 operations center, learning CPR from firefighters, and obtaining details about forensics and property evidence techniques like how to lift fingerprints.
According to organizers, the academy is an important annual tool that helps law enforcement officers “gain trust with members of the community,” said Mills. It makes citizens better witnesses and then “we help to solve crimes together.”

The academy has room for up to three more participants. To find out more or to join, call the Gulfport Records Department at 727-893-1041 or email Mills at zmills@mygulfport.us.

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