The University of California, Santa Barbara Police Department and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department are teaming up to bring UCSB and Santa Barbara City College students the first-ever Citizen’s Academy exclusively for Isla Vista residents and college students in Santa Barbara County.
This 8-week course, held in different locations around Santa Barbara each Wednesday evening from Mar. 9 to Apr. 20, offers an in-depth, hands-on look at the issues and procedures law enforcement officers deal with everyday, delving into case law, shooting techniques, safety procedures and working with the K-9 unit.
After six months of planning that was spearheaded by Goleta Community Resource Deputy Dave Valadez, Sergeant Matt Bowman of the UCSB Police Department is excited and hopeful for what’s to come.
“We want to demystify the idea that being a part of law enforcement is the same as what you see on CSI,” Bowman said.
For 3 hours every Wednesday evening, community members will learn about aspects of the job at the Goleta Police Department Headquarters, the Allan Hancock College Law Enforcement Academy in Santa Maria and one of Santa Barbara County’s rifle training facilities, among others.
“It’s not everyday that the average citizen gets to go behind the scenes to see what we really do,” Bowman said. “Whether it’s learning proper firearm procedure or interacting with the K-9 unit, it’s definitely going to be a worthwhile time.”
The course comes as part of a two-pronged approach, according to Bowman, that helps community members both learn more about law enforcement in general and give a human face to the people in uniform.
“It helps us to be more transparent, and helps bridge the gap between law enforcement and the public,” Isla Vista Community Resource Deputy James McKarrel said.
Equally as important, Bowman says, is the opportunity for Santa Barbara law enforcement to “flip the mirror.”
“In the past, especially in light of recent events, we’ve held various seminars and meetings with students and staff about their role in the event of a shooting or other dangerous situation,” Bowman said. “This is the first time where we as law enforcement officers have a chance to flip the mirror around and show the details of our role in those same situations.”
Similar courses have been offered both locally and throughout the UC system. Santa Barbara County has run a successful Citizen’s Academy, also spearheaded by Valadez, open to the general public for years now, according to Bowman. The campuses at UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz have implemented similar programs, offering them as quarterly courses that prove quite popular with their respective student bodies and count for up to 2 units.
Though applications have only recently become available, the course is quickly filling up. Though the course falls during UCSB’s spring break, priority registration is given to those who are available for that week. However, Bowman encourages applicants concerned about transportation to submit their applications anyway, as the police department will provide transportation for those who would otherwise rely on public transit.
The course is set to end on on Sat., Apr. 23, with a graduation ceremony and celebratory barbecue.