Citizens share inside look at law enforcement

SPD Citizens’ Police Academy 2018 Class President Chad Price shares what he learned over the last 10 weeks at the Academy’s graduation on Thursday night. (Photo By Faith Lifer, SDN)

Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Several Starkville citizens reflected on the importance of law enforcement officers Thursday night, when the Starkville Police Department held a graduation celebration for its 2018 Citizens’ Police Academy.

The 2018 class was SPD’s third class to graduate the 10-week program.

Starkville Police Department Corporal Josh Wilson, the program’s lead instructor, opened the graduation.

“I’m really proud to be a part of this program under Chief Nichol’s supervision,” Wilson said. “I just want to thank everyone for being here and thank this class for putting up with me for 10 weeks going through this program.”

Starkville Police Chief Frank Nichols started the Citizens’ Police Academy to ensure the public got a firsthand look at what the department does.

“There’s a perception out there that cops eat donuts and ride around and harass people,” Nichols said. “So I wanted y’all to see exactly what we do— and not only see it, but be a part of it.”

Nichols said he hoped for some of the graduates who have gone through the program to join the force at SPD.

“Thank you guys,” Nichols concluded. “You’re part of the family now. Forever a part of the SPD family.”

Wilson also invited the Academy’s three class presidents to speak.

The Academy’s first class president was Tammy Carlisle.

“Chief really nailed it, and the one word that stuck out to me was family,” Carlisle opened. “I think our community is our family. And we have to take care of each other. And we can’t do that if we don’t know.”

Carlisle thinks, in the digital age, communities have become somewhat disconnected, losing their sense of communication.

“When we come together and try to support each other and understand, I think we can appreciate our differences and the things that are similar,” Carlisle said.

Carlisle saw the Citizen’s Academy as a chance to understand her community better.

“I gained a respect on a different level when we really got into the details of what they do,” Carlisle said of the police officers. “What they have to see and hear and put up with, and what’s said to them and how they’re treated.

“And then they have to go home and somehow turn that off. And be mommy and daddy and cook dinner and go to church and be normal,” Carlisle added.

Carlisle said she can’t imagine having to function daily like police officers do.

“They’re good people, and they’re trying really hard to help and do the right thing. And they’re so scrutinized,” Carlisle said. “I just can’t imagine having to function like that.”

Carlisle said one of the biggest things she learned was the reasons behind the police process.

“Like chief said, it’s not just to harass people. It’s to protect us,” Carlisle said. “For example, when they stop a DUI, that could protect your family or my family or the community.”

“Or understanding pursuit calls,” Carlisle added. “You know, we think that they get to just drive fast and that must be fun, but there are rules.”

Towards the end of her speech, Carlisle honed in on her appreciation for the law enforcement officers.

“I just respect and appreciate that sacrifice they make on behalf of my family and my community,” Carlisle said. “So I like to go out into the community and just thank them and do as much as I can to share a positive word about them.”

“We forget that we’re all people and we all need to work together to strengthen our community and try to understand,” Carlisle added. “So that’s just some of the things that I learned in my class.”

The program’s second class president was Kim Moreland. For Moreland’s speech, she shared her favorite part of the program.

“We did this simulation training,” Moreland said. “And I’m going to tell you, the situation I got into, it was tough.”

For Moreland’s simulation, the officers pulled a man over in a car, then the man was arrested. The officers all had their weapons drawn, and Moreland was next to her partner, who was sitting beside her.

What happened next affected Moreland’s perception of the daily tasks of law enforcement officers.

“A 12-year-old kid gets out with a shotgun, fixing to shoot my partner. What do you do in that situation?” Moreland asked.

“That was my favorite part. It made me think. It actually made me walk around in their shoes, and it was tough.” Moreland continued. “These people are faced with that every single day. Every time they pull somebody over for a traffic stop, they don’t know what’s in that car.”

Moreland hopes, more than anything, what this year’s graduates got out of the program was the importance of bridging gaps between law enforcement and the community.

“Help bridge that gap for the people that don’t understand why they do the things that they do,” Moreland said. “They are here for our protection, and they sacrifice their lives on a daily basis to protect ours.”

This year’s class president was Chad Price, who also participated in the Academy’s first class offered.

“As they said, learning about your police department is just as important as knowing what City Hall does,” Price said. “They’re a very important part of how a community functions.”

Price said he hopes the program continues in the future.

“I hope the chief continues this for years to come, and at some point, we’re all back in here again when it’s the 10th or 15th class that’s coming through,” Price said.

After the speeches, this year’s graduates received their certificates. This year’s graduates were Brittany Moore-Henderson, Neco Henderson, Chad Price, Cynthia Morgan, Delisa Woodard and Johnny Kelley.