More than a decade ago, as a relatively new owner of The Wheel — a bar near the Kansas University campus — Rob Farha wanted to learn more about the Lawrence Police Department.
He and his staff had frequent contact with officers, especially as they dealt with large crowds on game days. And so he applied for the department’s 11th Citizens’ Academy. There, he said, he learned officers do much more than patrol the streets.
“It really opens your eyes to all the different areas and things they deal with,” he said. “It’s more than just policing. They’re psychologists. They’re school teachers. They’re social workers. They’re life-safety teachers. They’re everything.”
Now the department is seeking applicants for its 19th Citizens’ Academy, which will run Oct. 5 to Nov. 4. Farha, who is still a member of the police chief’s council, said he would encourage any Lawrence resident to apply.
Sgt. Matt Sarna, a department spokesman who coordinated three past academies, said most residents only have interactions with officers in emergency situations. Citizens’ academy gives people an up-close look at the department’s operations.
“They get to learn why we do what we do when we get on the street, which is very important to the average citizen,” he said.
This 19th academy’s members will attend classes most Tuesday and Thursday evenings over five weeks and learn about a gamut of issues, including interrogations, evidence collection, hostage negations, vehicle stops, firearms and gangs.
Applications are available at www.lawrencepolice.org. The deadline to turn one in is Sept. 17, and officers expect to select 15 to 16 class members.
Officer Dave Hogue, the academy’s coordinator, encouraged anyone with an interest in the department, including people who may be skeptical or “maybe consider themselves a little bit anti-police.”
“We’re hoping to have that interaction as a two-way street,” Hogue said, “not just us presenting information but citizens asking questions and really digging in to who we are.”