Editor’s note: This is the first story in a series of stories that will follow the Fairborn Citizen’s Police Academy. Look for the installment each Friday until the course ends.
By Whitney Vickers
FAIRBORN — Police officers are responsible for more than handing out tickets and taking people to jail, and that is what the Fairborn Police Department is hoping to convey during its 12-week Citizens Police Academy.
The academy gives the FPD the opportunity to explain its responsibilities according to varying officers who will make appearances throughout the course to explain their roles. It is held Thursday evenings for the next 12 weeks. In its first session, Fairborn Police Chief Terry Barlow described the department’s mission statement, core values, staff roles and schedule.
“Hopefully by the time you leave here in 12 weeks you’ll have a very good understanding of what we do, how we do it, why we do it, all that good stuff,” Barlow said. “… It’s something that we can’t inform the public enough.”
Fairborn Operations Sergeant Mark Stannard echoed Barlow’s statements, described some of his specific responsibilities, gave a tour of the department and addressed police stereotypes. Stannard has taught the academy since 1997.
“You’re going to learn about the police department in a way that most people don’t have the opportunity to,” Stannard said. “If you have a relative in law enforcement, sometimes you can get an idea — but you don’t always learn about your police department.”
The City of Fairborn features 1.6 police officers per 1,000 citizens, which means that at any given time of day the FPD aims to have one sergeant and five officers patrolling the streets. They work 12-hour shifts for two days in a row, take the next two off, work the following three and take the next three off. This translate to an individual officer working for seven out of 14 days at a time.
“Are 12-hour days a long day? Sure is. It’s like taking a trip to the northern tip of Florida everyday,” Barlow said. “My comment to you is if you see an officer at a Speedway station or parking lot or just our walking around, they’re trying to get out of the car for a little while. You know how it is on a trip.”
The FPD has 70 total individuals who work for the agency. Forty seven are sworn-in staff members, including one chief, two captains, seven sergeants, 32 officers and five detectives. The remaining 23 staff members are non-sworn and include 10 dispatchers, nine jailers, one property room clerk and three administrative assistants.
Each officer hired starts with street patrol, and must posses good eyesight, the ability to smell and thorough communication skills in order to fulfill that responsibility. Officer candidates start with a written test and, upon passing, take a physical agility test, which includes tasks such as pushing a car. They then move on to interviewing, background and medical checks in addition to a polygraph test.
“Whenever we hire an officer, they have to sign off on the [core values] during their swearing-in ceremony. It’s basically the values we live by, kind of like how the military does,” Barlow said. “Integrity — high moral character in all we do, obviously; dedication — commitment to the police profession; fairness — impartial treatment to all persons when dealing with them; courage — doing the right thing; excellence and continuous improvement and service before self. That’s what’s drilled into our new folks and occassionally some of our old folks … That’s what we live by, that’s how we do our job and how we respond to the needs and service of our citizens.”
The Citizens Police Academy takes place 6-9 p.m. Thursdays until March 12. Participants must attend 11 of the 12 sessions in order to receive a certificate of completion. Its next course will cover administration, jail responsibilities and operations. During week three of the course, Prosecutor Betsy Deeds will talk to the participants about elements of crimes, search and seizure, probable cause and legal issues. The remaining will go over topics such as crash, detective, crime scene and OVI investigation, collecting evidence, interviewing and interrogating, firearm safety and less lethal weapons, use of force, self defense, domestic violence, crisis negation’s, dispatch, among others.