Spots left to participate in Citizens Academy
SNOHOMISH - You know that if you’ve got the city manager itching to take a class about how his own city operates, it’s probably going to be good.
“I think everything about it is fascinating,” City Manager Larry Bauman said about the upcoming Citizens Academy curriculum, which is open to the public and currently taking applicants. “(City government) is the level of government where citizens have the best opportunity to influence the outcomes.”
The free six-week course developed and offered by the public safety commission will surely produce more informed citizens, Bauman said.
“It’s a great opportunity for a broader understanding of police and law enforcement, the fire department and city government as a whole,” Bauman said. “Anytime citizens are better informed of specifically what their government does it gives them an advantage of being able to get more involved or to provide the City Council with comments that may influence council actions.”
“I would do it,” he said.
The seven-person public safety commission has been meeting on a monthly basis to come up with the parameters of the class, which was deputy Larry Cole’s idea.
Cole is excited about enhancing the connection between the community and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which is contracted to provide police services in Snohomish.
“The city was a little hesitant to sign up and contract with the sheriff’s department, and this is one way to prove that there’s no loss of connection to the community,” Cole said. “Public safety and law enforcement is a community problem, and we can’t solve these problems if the community isn’t involved.”
The program currently has about 10 people signed up, and Cole said he has room for about 10 more.
Classes will run every Tuesday between Sept. 10 and Dec. 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Participants will absorb a wealth of knowledge in the areas of fire and law enforcement, public safety and city government. Participants must be 18 years old or have parent permission if younger.
“In general, having a good relationship between citizens and public safety makes the entire community safer,” Cole said. “It makes people want to move here and live here. It’s such a domino effect. It boosts the economy, boosts tourism, prevents crime and increases safety.”
Classes will be high-paced with a lot of hands-on instruction and student participation, Cole said.
Students will be taking classes all over the city. Either Cole or another city leader such as Fire Chief Ron Simmons or Police Chief John Flood will be leading classes.
Students will go to the 911 dispatch center to see how calls are handled. They’ll also get to check out gadgets the city uses such as hovercrafts for search and rescue, and underwater robots that assist in looking for drowning victims. Students will be introduced to K9 units and their handlers, and even learn how to prevent identity theft.
Simmons will take students to the fire department’s training site and letting them work through some fire training. Simmons will teach proper use of fire extinguishers and help people practice emergency planning.
“It’s tough to ask someone to come to that many weeks in a row, but there are people out there that will get a lot out of what we’re going to go over,” Simmons said. “It’s basic information for us, but the general public doesn’t really have that.”
Police Sgt. David Heitzman said the police department will be doing its best not to “inflict death by PowerPoint” during any of the classes and will encourage as much class participation as possible.
“Nobody will be required to do anything they’re not comfortable with,” Cole said.
Cole said he hopes students of the Citizens Academy will go on to share what they learned with their friends and family and create a more-informed community.
For example, if people learn how to avoid contaminating a crime scene, Cole said, then that helps police more effectively do their job.
“A lot of our crimes are solved because of how we’re trained on what to do,” Cole said. “Basic education on how to behave at the scene if you’ve been the victim of a crime helps us to collect the evidence and do a better investigation and solve the crime.”
You can’t put a dollar value on educating citizens, Cole said. He lamented the deaths of people in the Snohomish River who weren’t educated enough about river safety.
“If we save one life by educating the people in this class, and they have one relative that they in turn pass on that knowledge to, we couldn’t put a value on anything like that,” Cole said. “That’s something you can’t really value.”
To sign up for the academy or for more information, call the police department at 360-568-0888.
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