Citizens Police Academy registration open in Hampton

Thursday, January 30, 2020 | 12:01 AM

Hampton Township Police Department is offering its Citizens’ Police Academy, returning for its third year, with applications now being accepted until Feb. 28.

The free academy will be held every Thursday from April 2 to May 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hampton Township Community Center on McCully Road in Allison Park. Applications can be obtained online via the HTPD website or picked up at the township police department on McCully Road.

The academy gives students the opportunity to know more about the criminal justice system, particularly on the local level, according to Hampton Officer Chris Finnigan, who coordinates the program.

“The benefit is to get a better understanding of what the local police department deals with day to day,” said Finnigan.

Topics will specifically include the Allegheny County 911 Center; patrol and criminal procedure use of force/SRT; the court system; forensics; Pennsylvania State Police Role, Function and Programs; City of Pittsburgh Police Department K-9 Unit; and drugs and opioids, according to the Hampton police department website.

Finnigan along with Chief Tom Vulakovich, Sgt. Robert Kirsopp, and Det. Robert Grondwalski, all of Hampton Police Department, will also be presenting information.

Pennsylvania State Police, Allegheny County 911 and the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department will also hold discussions and classes, said Finnigan. Dr. Edward Strimlan of Point Park University will cover forensics, he said.

Applicants must have no felony conviction to attend. Also, students will not have to participate in any major physical activity. Finnigan said they do SIMTAC, or a simulated training program, that puts the participant in everyday scenarios where they have to determine proper use-of-force, including simulated firearms training, but this also does not require any major physical exercise.

Potential students must be at least 18 years of age. Finnigan said there’s been a “wide range” of students since it started, with participants into their early 70s attending. Some are still working and some are retired.

Last year’s class was close to 15 and Finnigan said there’s no limit to how many can attend. Also, the academy is being opened this year to surrounding areas, such as McCandless, Shaler, Pine, and Richland townships.

Finnigan said he’s gotten great responses from other previous participants.

“It’s all been positive feedback every year. They love the course and said they’d recommend it to their neighbors,” said Finnigan.

Hampton Councilperson Bethany Blackburn attended a similar citizen’s police academy in 2003 when she was employed by the City of Santa Clara in California.

“I learned so much about the skills and training needed to be a police officer as well as the challenges and risks they are confronted with every day. So I’m really looking forward to learning more about the Hampton police department and what it takes to keep our community safe,” said Blackburn, adding she would’ve attended in a previous year, but was unable due to scheduling conflicts.

Fellow councilpersons Dr. Carolynn Johnson and Mike Peters attended last year’s Citizen’s Academy and Peters highly recommends it.

“The Citizens Police Academy is an excellent opportunity for residents to interact with the Hampton Township Police and gain insight into it and have appreciation of the job they do,” he said.

Finnigan added there may be a chance they’ll extend the Feb. 28 registration deadline.

All participants will be contacted via phone or email with additional information, if selected.

HTPD notes the academy is for information purposes only and does not quality the participants to become police officers.