Academy teaches public about law enforcement

Citizens get to see the police department’s capabilities firsthand.
Thursday, September 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:20 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sometime in the next couple months, Columbia police detective Jeff Nichols will smear diluted horse blood on tile and carpet samples. A group of 15 citizens will watch the blood, diluted until it is invisible, glow when he applies a special chemical used to uncover evidence in crime scenes.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Wow that’s just like CSI,’” Nichols said, referring to the popular TV program about forensic scientists.

As he has for the past five years, Nichols plans to teach this lesson during the upcoming Citizens’ Police Academy, which begins Tuesday. For 10 weeks, citizens will spend their Tuesday evenings learning about forensics investigations, patrol operations, traffic enforcement, the K-9 Unit, domestic violence, crisis negotiation and other police duties.

Columbia Police Department employees like Nichols, who works in the Major Crimes Unit, volunteer to teach the classes.

“People need to know what their police department is capable of doing,” Nichols said.

Officer Jessie Haden, who coordinates the academy, said prospective students want to attend for various reasons.

Some are victims of crime or wonder if their local department resembles what they see on television. Others attend because they want to volunteer for community police programs.

After years of volunteering with park patrols, Neighborhood Watch and Citizens on Patrol, the community policing initiative, Bill Pauls went through the academy last spring. He said the experience gave him a better understanding of police vocabulary and policies.

Although the incoming fall class is full, Haden said people could continue applying for a slot in the spring academy on the department’s Web site at or by calling 874-7448.

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