Posted on January 2, 2014
Originally published in the El Dorado News-Times on January 3, 2014.
By: Tia Lyons
Citizens who have ever wondered what the job of a police officer is like, particularly an officer with the El Dorado Police Department, will now have the opportunity to learn firsthand.
In accordance with Police Chief Billy White?s campaign to bring back old-school policing ? including foot patrols and black-and-white patrol units ? and in an effort to improve community relations, the EPD is launching its first Citizens Police Academy.
Sgt. Chris Lutman, community relations supervisor for the EPD, is working to fulfill White?s vision by serving as liaison to the public, and he said the CPA is a way to create and maintain a better community policing department and build trust with the citizenry the EPD serves.
Classes will begin on Feb. 4 and will be held from 6 until 9 p.m. each Tuesday for eight weeks.
The deadline to sign up is Jan. 24. The class is free to the public.
Lutman, who previously worked for the North Little Rock Police Department, said the program successfully worked there and has worked in other cities in Arkansas and across the country.
“When I got to El Dorado, and when I got promoted (last April), and the chief created the position of community relations supervisor, that was one of the first ideas that popped into my head,? Lutman said.
Lutman said White was receptive to the idea, noting that the cost will be minimal for the EPD.
“Chief White liked it because it just makes sense. I started crunching numbers and found out it will not cost a whole lot for the department. There are also a couple of organizations that will sponsor it,? Lutman said.
Class size will be about 20, and right now, Lutman said, plenty of space is still available.
Lutman said he is hoping for a class that will represent a cross-section of the city?s population.
“I?m hoping to get a variety of age groups, and I want a wide range of thoughts and opinions. Everything from the aspiring EPD officer, the citizen who lives in denial that things we deal with are actually happening in El Dorado, to the person who has misconceptions of the police officer. That?s what I?m looking for,? he said.
Through the CPA, participants will be able get an inside look at how the EPD functions.
“It?s like an open door to the agency. People will be able to see why we do what we do, how we approach and investigate things, and they?ll see we have nothing to hide. They?ll see how we hold ourselves accountable for the decisions we make,? he said.
“This career field is interesting due to the fact that one police officer across the country can make a serious mistake, and many in the public perceive all officers as bad,? Lutman continued. “We obviously know this is not the case, but at the EPD, we want to communicate to the public there are measures in place to deal with decisions we make, whether right or wrong.?
CPA participants will be privy to demonstrations of different areas of police work and to the EPD?s different divisions, including patrol, narcotics, criminal investigative, emergency dispatch, etc.
Academy students will focus on two topics per class, and each topic will pertain to a different division within the EPD.
Lutman said participants will have the opportunity to get tasered, fire weapons officers use at the firing range, participate in K9 training and help investigate mock crime scenes.
Applications for the CPA may be picked up at EPD headquarters.
Lutman said background checks will be conducted on applicants, and certain criteria, which is noted on the applications, will have to be met in order to participate in the class.
For instance, applicants must live and work in El Dorado, be at least 18 years old, and have no convictions for felonies or serious misdemeanors.
Completed forms may be mailed or dropped off at the EPD.
A graduation dinner will be held at the end of the eight weeks, and graduates will receive certificates.
Lutman emphasized that those who participate in the CPA will not be certified officers upon graduation.
Lutman said he will be inviting honest, no-holds-barred assessments of the CPA from participants.
“I want the class critiqued very hard. If there are things we need more of or things we didn?t get enough of, I want to know about it,? he said.
Along with providing citizens with a better understanding of what law enforcement officers do, Lutman said he hopes the CPA will also prompt citizens to become more involved in the community.
Lutman said he would love to see more active neighborhood programs in El Dorado.
He said the Parkway/Parkview and Marrable Hill areas have the only two local Neighborhood Watch programs, and organizations in the Marrable Hill and St. Louis areas are at the forefront of organizing neighborhood events ? such as neighborhood cleanups, block parties, family fun days, etc. ? and working with police to improve the quality of life for neighborhood residents.
“We are hoping to build on the success of the CPA by eventually conducting the class twice a year,? Lutman said. “I love getting out in the community, and I?m praying on other ideas I would like to implement. I haven?t put all the pieces together …, but I have a lot of ideas in my head right now.?
For more information about the CPA, call Lutman at (870) 881-4820.” “SouthArk to Offer College-Credit Entrepreneurship Classes – Tuesday, January 07, 2014”