Citizens Academy

The Citizens Academy is a joint venture presented by the Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach Police Departments. The Academy is scheduled to be offered two times each year at Ramona Gardens in Grover Beach. Each Academy is 8-9 weeks in length, meeting once a week in the evening for approximately three (3) hours per session. Attendance at the Academy is limited to maintain a more manageable class size and allow a closer relationship between the instructors and the students. The Academy environment is highly interactive between the students and the instructors, with questions from students strongly encouraged as part of the learning process. As the class begins to bond, students have made each session a potluck dinner event as well. The Academy concludes with a formal graduation ceremony during which each student is presented with a certificate of graduation.

The subjects offered in the Citizens Academy are selected by the staffs of the participating Police Departments from topics and issues that have historically been of the most interest to citizens. Those subjects cover a full spectrum from police communications and dispatch functions to crime prevention, police K-9, SWAT, crime scene investigations and evidence recovery, traffic control and enforcement, community patrol tactics, and an overview of the criminal justice and court system from the perspective of the District Attorney’s Office.

One of the most popular presentations is the firearms training simulator, a computer-generated system that allows each student to experience real-life scenarios in a controlled environment designed to test decision-making and judgment skills. Each scenario offers the student the opportunity to make a rapid decision to shoot or not shoot an actor on a computer screen with a laser-equipped handgun that tracks the accuracy of the laser beam. Despite the fact that the simulator is a controlled, harmless environment, the stress each student experiences in making a “shoot/don’t shoot” decision is clearly evident in their reactions. Every student who goes through the firearms training simulator emerges with a new understanding of the difficult, sometimes split second decisions that must be made by Police Officers in the street.

Completion of the Citizens Academy is required of anyone who wants to join the Citizens Assisting Police or the South County Police Volunteer programs. You do not have to join either program to participate in a Citizens Academy, but that requirement gives potential volunteers priority for the Academy and does necessarily limit the availability of positions in the Academy for individuals who will not be joining either of the two volunteer programs.