From Feb. 18 to April 29, the Willimantic Police Department hosted an 11-week program where members of the local community were given the opportunity to learn about the department and routine police work. Three Eastern Connecticut State University students and several members of the faculty were members of the program. The goal of the academy was to “bridge the community and the Police Department.”
Alice Lee, a faculty member at Eastern, spoke fondly of her time in the Willimantic Citizens Police Academy. “I think this class helped to inform and enlighten me on police work and gave me a greater understanding of what they do. I think that classes like this should be held more often; the public should see what they do and why they do it.”
Many of the students attended the academy because they had always wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement and it gave them the chance to experience police work firsthand. Connor Dupuis, a freshman at Eastern who participated in the program, aspired to work not only in law enforcement, but specifically for the Willimantic Police Department. Dupuis spoke of how a mutually beneficial relationship between the community and local police could benefit the area. “To me, community policing is the most important factor in police work. It brings citizens and police together with the ultimate goal of stopping crime before it happens, not responding to crime calls after they occur,” said Dupuis.
Another student, freshman Morgan Marquis, jumped at the opportunity to participate in the academy. According to Marquis, working directly with police was a pleasure. At a time when there is a rift between law enforcement and many communities, Marquis thought this program helped prevent that rift from developing in Willimantic. She admired how personable and helpful they were with participants; an opinion that she admits might not be as common among her peers. “I know that most college kids see the police as a burden, but in reality they are just doing their job; to ensure the safety and happiness of those in the community,” Marquis said.
If Marquis’ testimonial is any indicator, this program can continue to be a huge success in bringing together the community and its law enforcement.