Dayton Police Department held a graduation ceremony on Tuesday, April 4, for 16 graduates of its Citizens Police Academy. The academy – a partnership between law enforcement and the community – aims to create meaningful connections between the police department and its citizens.
This was the second Citizens Police Academy to be held by Dayton Police Department and the first since 2019 as classes were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My goal from this was to gain community support and for you guys to know who we are. These folks work for you. We all work for you,” said Chief Derek Woods, gesturing to his staff members who helped orchestrate the classes. “All of them live here or right close to here, and do business here every day. Your tax dollars pay for them, so we want you to know who they are and have a relationship with them. We want you to feel comfortable to call upon them.”
Woods, who was named Dayton police chief in January 2022, got a little emotional as he explained his devotion to his job as chief and living up to the law enforcement motto of “protect and serve.”
“I am very passionate about this job and serving people. It’s what I was put here to do, and I am going to do it until I can’t do it any longer. All the people who work here have the same heart, the same vision and the same goal. They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t. They have a tough job,” he said. “When you guys go home and lay down to sleep, I want you to feel comfortable in knowing that you have one of the best police departments in the area, and we have your back.”
Throughout the six-week course, which had students meeting every Tuesday night from 6 to 8 p.m., they toured the police department and saw the operations of dispatch and the 911 system. They also learned about patrols, pursuits and auto crashes, and participated in mock traffic stops. Members of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office spoke to the group during one class, bringing along a K9 unit and SWAT officers. The Liberty County District Attorney’s Office spoke on another night about the processes and challenges of investigating and prosecuting cases.
Prior to graduation on Tuesday, the class took part in a mock murder investigation and learned how officers approach a scene, look for evidence, document evidence and follow leads to find suspects.
One of the graduates, Kelsey Conner, is a local real estate agent and wife of Dayton City Councilman Andy Conner. She went through the academy in order to gain a greater understanding of the police department.
“There is so much more to the police department than the average citizen understands. These people do so much on a daily basis,” she said. “The police department will now have us out there advocating for them in the community and explaining to other citizens about the daily challenges they face.”
She hopes to see the police department grow in its numbers in the near future.
“Our county and city are growing, so then the police department has to grow as well,” she said.
Another graduate, Ivan Cabrieles-Uresti, who pastors a Dayton Pentecostal church – Casa De Vida, said he came into the academy with the idea that Dayton was a tough place for minorities, particularly Hispanics. His opinion was changed throughout the six-week course and he now realizes that the language barrier is the greatest impediment.
Dayton Police Department has bilingual officers and is currently in the process of hiring more, so that situation should see improvements.
When asked what Dayton PD can do to bridge the gap right now, Cabrieles-Uresti said community outreach is key, and he plans to have facilitate some meetings between the Hispanic community and the police department in the future.
Chief Woods was asked by one Academy graduate if he and others should demand more support from Council, but Woods cautioned against that.
“We have a really supportive council. They have gotten our pay up. I am going to ask for, though I am not sure I am going to get it, two more people. If the budget will allow for it, then great. If it doesn’t, then we will have to back up and punt, and do something else. Council here has been overwhelmingly supportive of law enforcement and fire,” he said. “I am not going to ask for stuff we don’t need. I am not going to waste money. Again, I live here. I pay taxes here and I don’t want to see frivolous spending. There are great things to come here in Dayton. You have a great community, and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Great story. Thank you for the pictures taken at our graduation ceremony.
Is that Chief Derek Woods in the photos?