After a hiatus of a few years, the Abington Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy is back. Well … it was back. Its students graduated on Wednesday night.
The 8-week course covered everything from traffic stops to forensics to firearms safety. Officer Roger Gillespie facilitated the program; he came up with the curriculum and signed other officers on as teachers. Gillespie also taught the students the history of the Abington Police Department.
“[Community Service Officer Supervisor] Dave Rondinelli had mentioned that we hadn’t done the program in a few years, and people in the community had been asking about it,” Gillespie said. “We did it for years, and just stopped about three years ago. The officer in charge of it had retired and it kind of dropped off.”
The revived program appears to be popular. The classroom at the Abington Public Safety Training Facility building on Florey Lane was packed with students; each received a certificate and a patch on Wednesday night. The students represented a good cross-section of the Abington population.
Gillespie said he’s already had people ask him when the next session will take place. (It will probably start again in March.)
It was Gillespie’s first foray into the program, and he said he got just as much out of it as the residents.
“I just have a great time watching the residents learn about police work and seeing how interested they are,” he said. “I enjoy getting to know people from the community and spending time with them."
Abington Police Lt. Steven Hochwind was on hand for the graduation as well. He said he did the introduction to the course along with Lt. Pat Molloy. Hochwind also took the students on a tour of the police station, including the cellblock area and the processing center to “show them exactly what happens when you’re at the APD."
“I like to build a bond with the residents,” Hochwind said. “Really, the only way we can survive is by teaming up with the residents. Not only do they support us financially, but they support us by having more eyes out there — and that’s key.”
The program appears to be more than just learning for curiosity’s sake. Hochwind said a couple of the residents have started their own neighborhood watch groups; some of the students were interns with the police department and aspire to be police officers.
Danielle Manzinger, of Glenside, said she was happy with the course.
“My mom told me about it,” she said. “I thought it’d be interesting. I’m interested in forensics, so I wanted to see how the police department handles it. The forensics lesson was taught on the last week, and I was looking forward to it the whole time.”
Even though she was holding her certificate, she said she’d sign up for the course next year.