Alameda Brings Back the Citizen Police Academy

APD offers civilians a behind-the-scenes look at police work.


Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Sgt. David Pascoe of the Alameda Police Department believes the police and residents work best together.

“We’ve actually been pretty successful. We’ve made several arrests,” Pascoe said about local smash-and-grab incidents on the Island, crediting the work of proactive neighborhood watch. “It’s also a give and take. It’s a little bit of accountability of everybody trying to take care of their own stuff.”

Seeking to build on that bond, the Alameda Police Department has brought back its Citizen Police Academy. It’s an 11-week program that gives Alamedans a behind-the-scenes look into daily police work and runs Oct. 2-Dec. 11. Those who complete it can apply to APD’s Volunteer in Policing program to assist officers, like Pascoe, in future department events and programs.


What is the goal of the Citizen Police Academy?

The goal of the Citizen Police Academy is to make sure the citizens see what police officers go through: the training, the types of things we look for in investigations. It’s kind of fun, because you can watch TV and get a general idea of what police work is like, but it’s entirely different when you have to go through it. We also talk about the difficulties and stress of pursuit driving and investigating. The district attorney comes and speaks about what he does. We talk about police reports and what we’re looking to do when we make arrests. From my experience, it’s been very eye-opening for a lot of citizens.


What’s an average day as a patrol officer like?

Every day is different. Some days are busier than others. It could be a day where there’s a lot of people trying to commit thefts to different businesses that we have. We have a shopping center on the west end of town, with a Target and a Safeway. With all the different stores that we have now in the Alameda South Shore Center, we could be busy with that. Or it could be a day where, for some reason, there’s a lot of accidents. It varies. Those are the types of things that we get, as well as barking dog calls. I had one where a gentleman said, ‘Look, I work nights and my neighbor’s dog is barking all day. It’s killing me.’ It truly varies.


Why did the Citizen Police Academy end in the first place?

It ended just because of staffing. Our COPPS unit, the Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving unit, is who used to run it, so it was staffed by police officers. Due to a lack of staffing, we ended up having to put those officers on the street, because the citizens would rather have patrol officers there than the citizens academy. We were just running low. People were retiring. We had to backfill patrol with officers we had initially in the unit.

Now, it’s being staffed by Michaelia Parker, a crime prevention technician. We hired her to do it, and she’s the one orchestrating it all. We never wanted to get rid of it, because, even the officers here, we were all kind of sad. It’s very fun to interact with the citizens.


What do you do in the Alameda Police Department?

I used to work in the narcotics division, but now I’m on patrol. I’m responsible for the patrol officers who are patrolling and responding to calls, like traffic stops and what have you. I just wanted to do something where I could help the community. It’s always something different. No two days are alike, so it’s something that’s exciting that’s going to happen. I joined the Alameda Police Department in 1991. I’m from New York. I moved out here in ’88, and I’ve been here since. I was in the military, the Army, beforehand.


What are some ways Alamedans can get involved in community safety?

We have a bunch of neighborhood watch programs that are set out in the city. It’s more for people to police themselves and be a watchful eye in their neighborhoods. I’d say they work pretty well. Some of the people in the neighborhoods call and say, “I’m the block captain for this neighborhood watch. I know who my neighbors are because of that. That person sticks out, and that person shouldn’t be in that yard.” Those are things that are helping. And it’s very satisfying for us, as police officers, when you find out that it works, and the citizens actually like it. One lady, she found someone who she noticed was stealing stuff, and we were able to catch the person. She was overjoyed and said, “It actually worked. I can’t believe it happened.” And we started laughing.