CSI: Duke

Citizens' Police Academy teaches basics of law enforcement

Members of the Citizens' Police Academy discuss safety and how Duke Police travel around campus at a recent program meeting. The Academy is open to all Duke community members. Photo courtesy of Duke Police.

Moving from room-to-room in an on-campus apartment, Li-Chen Chin snapped pictures with her iPad and made notes of what she saw.

Broken glass from the front door. A missing flat screen TV. An emptied jar of change.

Luckily this burglary was all pretend for the latest session of Duke Police's Citizens' Police Academy, a 10-week, hands-on crime prevention program for Duke community members.

Along with 15 other Duke staff members, Chin spent the night of Jan. 28 surveying the mock crime scene and talking to officer Jeffrey Davis, who was playing the role of the break in victim. With the help of Duke police officers, Chin and the others learned about steps used to investigate crime scenes and how officers try to solve crimes.

"Safety is everybody's responsibility, so anything we can do as a community to help make the university safer is a good thing," said Chin, director of intercultural programs at Duke. "The Academy is a great opportunity for me to learn more about what Duke Police does."

Over the course of five classes, participants in the Citizens' Police Academy learn about a variety of police duties that include firearm safety, traffic stops, how to react to emergency incidents and more. Duke Police crime prevention officer Eric Hester and crime prevention manager David Williams lead the academy.

Doris B. Jordan
Li-Chen Chin uses her iPad to take pictures and notes of a "crime scene" during a mock investigation with the Citizens' Police Academy. Photo by Bryan Roth.

The Jan. 28 class on crime scene analysis and criminal investigation offered a way for Duke police officers to show how they log incidents and investigate, a process that involves meeting with victims to studying Constitutional law and partnering with other law enforcement agencies. Participants also learned how officers  "canvas" an area after a crime by talking to nearby residents and employees.

"Our goal is to help people realize that we want to be a resource to the Duke community," said Hester, the crime prevention officer. "By knowing more about what we do and how we do it, students and employees can help create greater solvability factors to help us with investigations and to promote campus safety."

MaryAnne Y. Zabrycki is among the staff participating in the Citizens' Police Academy. She serves on a safety committee at the Duke Cancer Institute, where she works as a strategic service associate for safety. Zabrycki said she joined the program to learn tips and tricks to take back to her coworkers to help make her workplace safer.

"It's been fun because Eric [Hester] and Dave [Williams] are so enthusiastic about campus safety," she said. "I didn't know that I'd have so much fun. I've learned a lot."

The next session of the Citizens' Police Academy is tentatively scheduled for the 2013 fall semester. Interested Duke community members can contact Eric Hester via email for more information.

"We are excited to offer this experience and based on the feedback so far, it has been valuable," said John Dailey, chief of Duke Police.  "We look forward to conducting future sessions."