Basalt’s Citizens Police Academy puts residents in cops’ shoes | AspenTimes.com

Basalt’s Citizens Police Academy puts residents in cops’ shoes

Ever want to walk in the shoes of a cop when he or she is approaching a vehicle after a traffic stop or encountering a hostile person? The Basalt Police Department is providing the opportunity.

For the second year, the department is offering its Citizens Police Academy. It will feature three classroom sessions in English and Spanish as well as four comingled field sessions.

Anyone from the Roaring Fork Valley is welcome to join the academy, which is free, Basalt police Sgt. Joe Gasper said.

The Basalt department was ahead of the curve in terms of trying to build a bridge with the community. But as multiple national events over the past couple of years have shown, there are tensions between police and their communities.

"There's been a lot of publicity, and a lot of it hasn't been good," Gasper said.

He joined the department after serving in large police forces in cities and found a totally different vibe in Basalt.

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"What struck me when I first got here was everybody was friendly," Gasper said.

Nevertheless, the department believes there's always room for improvement in relations, particularly with the Hispanic community, Gasper said.

The Citizens Police Academy feature Saturday field sessions Sept. 24 and Oct. 8, 22 and 29. One will highlight what officers are looking for during regular patrol operations.

Another will go over defensive tactics they rely on when encountering a person. Attendees will learn why cops approach a vehicle in a certain way during a routine traffic stop, Gasper said. They also will get to experience what a cop experiences while trying to handcuff a person after an arrest.

"We want to put them in our shoes," Gasper said.

The final field session will be firearms instruction at the Lake Christine gun range. The sessions with pistols and rifles proved poplar last year.

Participants must achieve good attendance at the academy to qualify for the target practice.

"We must feel comfortable with you before we put a gun in your hands," Gasper said.

Missy Hagen of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce attended the Citizens Police Academy last year.

"I wanted to know how our Police Department works," she said. "I wanted to know why they do what they do."

She was so impressed with last year's event that she is returning this year with her husband. Learning about the traffic stops was particularly fascinating, she said.

Hagen said she would highly recommend that anyone attend the academy.

"I was so impressed by the Basalt police force," she said.

All 12 police and community service officers will help with the academy. Citizen's liaisons who previously attended will assist the instructors.

The first classroom session in Spanish starts this evening at 6. Other classroom sessions in Spanish will be Sept. 26 and Oct. 10.

The classroom sessions in English are on Thursdays on Sept. 15, Sept. 29 and Oct. 13.

All classroom sessions are at Basalt High School.

Participants must fill out a simple application. Call the Basalt Police Department at 970-927-4316 or email joe.gasper@basalt​police.com to make arrangements to enroll in the academy.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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