Palm Springs Citizens’ Police Academy

September 12th, 2007

I enrolled in the Palm Springs Citizens’ Police Academy and this week attended my first classroom session. It’s a 13 week course which meets for 3 hours each Tuesday evening in the department’s training room facility. Enrollment in the course is free to anyone without felony convictions who is at least 18 years old. The academy has been in continuous existence since 1993 and it has graduated hundreds of students from all sectors of the community. The classroom is able to accommodate 45 students, however, as is sadly common about free offerings, after signing up, too many fail to keep their commitment and do not attend. That is certainly true of the current class, for our first session consisted of just 23 students.  
The first hour of this week’s session started off with a welcome by Sgt. Mark Stafford, the Academy Director. He was followed by a Police Detective who lectured about police ethics, departmental policies, and personnel recruitment requirements. He forewarned us his subject would prove to be the least exciting part of our academy experience.

The second hour was devoted to the K-9 program and we were introduced to a couple of youngish police officers and their dogs, Big Mack and Oreo. We learned the dogs in the unit are all male German Shepherds. The animals are usually acquired from kennels in Germany, though one of the two dogs we saw came from Czechoslovakia. They live with their police officer handlers who communicate with them using the same command language (usually German) used by the animal’s original trainers. The officers said the dogs are most often used for search and apprehend functions in situations where sending an officer might be dangerously unwise. Our session included an outdoors demonstration of each dog pursuing and grabbing a running suspect (the suspect was another police officer wearing protective clothing, who had volunteered for our benefit). It costs around $12,000 to acquire and train a new police dog and the last one was made possible through the efforts of a citizen community fund raiser.

In our last hour the class was divided into two groups and led on separate tours of the many police department functions within the main Police Headquarters building. We saw the jail facility, training rooms, computers, police dispatchers, interrogation rooms, work-out equipment area (these guys appear quite serious about staying in shape), Search and Rescue Team area, and several general administrative areas. The facilities occupy a main floor and a basement sub-floor area and all appear both modern and well maintained.

Among the interesting tidbits we learned was how much the department depends upon and has benefited from the generosity of the public. The extremely well equipped workout training room was made possible by community donations. The Search and Rescue Team, stated to be a critical component of the department, is comprised entirely of volunteers, and their vehicles and equipment were all made possible from community contributions. If ever there was a doubt of the good relations the Palm Springs Police Department has with its community, the many contributions from the public clearly provide ample evidence of that positive relationship.

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A description of the Citizens’ Police Academy together with an application form are available online at or by phone at (760) 323-8131 Ext. 8679.

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