PAXTON — For the first time, Anna Maria College students will receive credit for participating in the Civilian Police Academy, which kicks off later this month. Civilian Police Academy programs are designed to acquaint individuals who are not sworn police officers with the activities of their local police department
“In its third year, our previous class participants were mostly the older generation,” Organizer and Police Sgt. Guy Bibeau said. “But this year, we incorporated an Anna Maria College credit program, where college students can earn credit after writing papers on what they learned in the academy.”
The academy also appeals to civilians who are new to law enforcement. Participants will be part of hands-on mock trials where they can arrest a “criminal,” learn about interviewing and interrogation through fingerprinting, and experience the use of force through a domestic disturbance. Those in the academy will learn about a new topic each week, ranging from criminal/constitutional law, canine tactics, role of the medical examiner, domestic violence, community policing, and social media.
The academy is free and funded by the police department. Thirteen people are currently enrolled, and there is space for 25 people, Bibeau said. However, participants must be more than 18-years-old. About seven Anna Maria students are enrolled so far. Classes are held on Tuesdays for nine weeks from 6 to 9 p.m.
Anna Maria College Criminal Justice Programs for Undergraduate and Graduate Studies Director Dr. Tonisha M. Pinckney said the civilian academy can break stereotypes.
“The Civilian Academy is an amazing opportunity to connect the police with members of the community (including Anna Maria College students),” Pinckney said. “At a time when there are misperceptions, misunderstandings, and miscommunication between law enforcement and the community, this partnership is designed to educate the community and provide the police an opportunity to positively interact with those they serve and protect.”
Community misperceptions of law enforcement can only be countered by education and communication, Pinckney continued. The AMC Criminal Justice programs have 12 specializations, including: law enforcement and corrections, criminal justice policy and reform, and mental illness crisis intervention. In order to better educate students, college courses are taught by expert practitioners, Pinckney said.
In keeping with that tradition, the Civilian Academy course includes: subject matter experts, such as: Dr. Tonisha M. Pinckney (topics: on domestic violence, community policing and media, and identity theft), Dr. Ann Marie Mires (topic: role of the medical examiner), Dt. Sgt. Mailman (Worcester Police – topic: gangs), and Sgt. Guy Bibeau (topics: Use of force/ tasers and criminal law).
Other topics include: motor vehicle law, operating under the influence (alcohol and drugs), court procedure, firearms safety course with a certification included, and sexual assaults, Bibeau added. CEMELC Canine and Webster Police Officer Aaron Suss will conduct a canine demonstration.
However, the academy can be more than just learning the jest of what goes on in police work.
“In the past, some came in with tunnel vision, or a onesided view of what we do, and they graduated with a totally different outlook,” Bibeau said. “Hopefully, all students will leave with a little more knowledge and understanding about policing than when they came in.”
Molly Bish Center and Forensic Criminology Program Director, Dr. Ann Marie Mires, teaches a lecture on medical-legal death investigation in the academy. Mires commented on the benefit of the partnership.
“Having the subject matter experts come from the college creates that bridge between the community, the college, and policing,” Mires said. “We want our students to enroll in the course so that they can really see first-hand that interconnection between the college, citizenry, and the police. Instead of just reading about it, they get hands-on experience.”
Bibeau said he will take the time to explain different aspects of the curriculum since some students need attention than others. For instance, he will teach how an arrest is more than speaking to someone and then handcuffing the suspect.
“We can’t change anyone, but I hope they leave with a better understanding and appreciation for what we do day-in and day-out,” Bibeau said. “For the citizens, it’s a way to see the insides of what goes on around here, and for the Anna Maria students, it’s a way to see if they’re interested in police work — or not.”
The Anna Maria College Criminal Justice programs consist of criminal justice, law, politics and society, and forensic criminology. She said the school creates strong leaders, as well as educated and socially conscious citizens. Pinckney said the academy is all about community policing.
“The Civilian Academy will give the opportunity for citizens to not only appreciate the perspectives of law enforcement but a deeper understanding of how they navigate their role within the communities,” Pinckney said. “So having a better-informed citizenry creates a safer community – now we have buy-in from the community. Creates a partnership with the citizens – true community policing.”
Bibeau went onto say it’s a way to bring the community closer to the police department so that it’s not so surface level on both ends.
Pinckney explained that the Paxton Police ran the Civilian Academy successfully, but this partnership has allowed the college to expand upon the topics.
“The course is an experiential learning course designed to expose students to the laws, procedures, and processes of policing from the perspective of local law enforcement, facilitate a connectedness and collaboration between the community, AMC students, and Paxton Police, and provide an opportunity for positive discussions regarding misperceptions of policing and misunderstandings about roles of police in the community,” Pinckney said.
Bibeau said that participants can also go on night ride-alongs with a signed liability form after the program.
Anna Maria College Chief Information Officer Michael Miers said students enrolled in the academy were not able to comment to protect their privacy.
The first class, which includes a station tour, will be on Sept. 12 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The program will run for approximately 13 weeks.
Applications are available at the station, 576 Pleasant St. Participants must sign a covenant not to sue and undergo a background and criminal record check. For information, email , or call 508-793-3100, ext. 3155.
By Tara Vocino