NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - For local police departments in the east, trying to get the community engaged with policing can pay off in a big way.
For the New Bern Police Department, they found the perfect way to blend action with education, involving the public in what they do every day through a program they call the New Bern Citizens Police Academy.
"For a town the size of New Bern, this is a perfect program, community policing, because anything the citizens can do to help the police to reduce crime has got to be a benefit," says Carol Zink, the academy's most recent class president.
She was honored Tuesday night by the New Bern Board of Alderman. She says the experience was an eye-opener, allowing her and other members of the community a chance to see how the inner workings of the department operate day to day.
"We learned about VICE, we learned about narcotics, you could take a ride in a cruiser," Zink says. "I mean, there was just so much to learn."
According to officers, who may only interact with people in the public during things like traffic stops or calls, the academy offers a great opportunity for police to show their side and the work they do while developing invaluable relationships.
"So much of what we do, we can't do without community involvement," says Detective Josh Jensen with New Bern Police Department. "We only have so many officers on the road at a time to a point, but have numerous citizens out at all times that can help us out."
After meeting three hours a week on Thursday evenings for 10 weeks, their graduation signals another step forward towards the program's goal of building a partnership between citizens and police.
This program is held twice a year. In this most recent graduating class, some 12 students completed the academy and after graduation, students are encouraged to play an active role in community policing, all with the goal to make New Bern a safer community.
The Citizens Police Academy will be starting its next session this upcoming March.
The police department is accepting applications now for people who are interested in joining the program.