Laramie Police’s First Community Academy this Fall
“Do the right things for the right reasons,” is why Support Services Unit Sergeant Lenhardt of the Laramie Police Department has created the department’s first Community Academy.
“People need to know how and why we do certain things,” Lenhardt said. The academy will be held on Thursday evenings, 6-9 p.m. from Oct. 5 to Nov. 16.
In the name of transparency, the academy is a chance for participants to gain an understanding of the profession, and our local PD’s methods. Seventeen topics are on the list of subjects to be covered, including police ethics, patrol operations, crisis intervention, investigations, use of force, and traffic stops.
Lenhardt researched other departments that held academies; his sister attended one in Colorado where he formerly policed in order to see what he did for a living.
Applications are required, and so are background checks, but Lenhardt stressed that everyone is free to apply. “We have to have some standards. We have federal restrictions set by NCIC; the same restrictions for ride-alongs.”
Sensitive information such as videos will be available to civilians on occasion, hence the need for the criminal history check. It’s still a fairly inclusive process; misdemeanors are welcome, and Lenhardt said no felony convictions within the last 18 months. And even then, he still encourages them to try.
“We can keep you on a list. If you think, ‘I might not meet the standards,’ then email me and we can talk about it. I want anyone to apply.”
Applications are due Friday, Sept. 8. Selected participants will be notified by Friday, Sept. 15. Applications can be picked up at the station at 620 Plaza Court in Laramie, or found online here.
Proactive Policing & Community Engagement
The seven-week program is “as short as I could get it and still show the whole department and what people would be interested in. Other academies on the Front Range have them for 10-14 weeks. We will see what people want. If they love something, we’ll do more of it. If something is boring, we’ll cut it out. Adjust as necessary.”
Sergeant Lenhardt designed the academy after his position was created three months ago: Support Services Unit, after Chief Brian Browne was sworn in last November and began asking questions.
“He talked to every officer one-on-one about the good and bad, and improvements we could make. I brought up we could do more proactive policing in certain areas… And we agreed we needed to do more community engagement. Chief asked ‘Can we make a position to do all that?’ and I said yes.”
Lenhardt enjoys community engagement after years of being a patrol cop. “It’s cool to have conversations with people, to interact with people and learn about their negative experiences with police. Either to them, or they saw it happen. Now they can have a positive interaction and a setting for the conversation, like at the Farmer’s Market or Freedom Has a Birthday.”
Creating a space for people to become more comfortable, and familiar with police–in a positive way–is Lenhardt’s goal, whether people think they’re “bothering” dispatch with traffic calls, or the 20’s crowd asking about his position on policing matters.
“I want to let people ask whatever questions they have. It’s a better way to interact with the community and be more transparent.”
“I’m not going to make everyone happy, but it’s generally me trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to do the right thing in this position.”
Lenhardt hopes to offer the academy every year, depending on how many people apply and participate.