Citizen Police Academy

The following is a summary of the classes for the 2017 Citizen Police Academy:

On Wednesday, January 4th, 2017, the Meriden Police Department kicked off the 2017 Citizen Police Academy.  This is the first Citizen Police Academy offered to the public in a number of years.  Thirty-two residents gathered in the Meriden Police training classroom to learn more about the Meriden Police Department and what it takes to serve as a modern day police officer.  
City Manager Guy Scaife spoke to the participants at the start of the class expressing a need for the students to become positive ambassadors for the Meriden Police and the City of Meriden.  He was impressed upon the large number of participants volunteering for the program.
Chief Cossette also spoke to the class about the program, suggesting they may be impressed to learn about how police officers investigate certain crimes and how the use of technology assists the police during their investigations.
Lieutenant Sherwood, coordinator of the program, was the lead instructor for the evening.  After covering an overview of the program and completing some administrative needs; LT Sherwood instructed the class on what it takes to become a police officer for the City of Meriden, covering the application process, police academy standards and all required training and preparation for the position.  
Lt. Sherwood also spoke about the structure of the Meriden Police Department, including the different divisions, units and specialties that exist within the department.  LT Sherwood concluded the class by covering a brief history of the policing profession, speaking about the different eras of policing.  
The participants of the class ranged in age from 18-75 years old.  The class consisted of college students and retirees, working professionals and stay-at-home parents, all expressing an interest to learn more about modern policing and to know more about why it is police do what they do.  
Some additional discussion points of the class spoke about freedom versus security, transparency versus privacy, community and police relations as well as police and race relations.  There was also a questions and answers portion of the class dedicated to common myths about police, such as quota systems and the police officer's love of donuts.  

January 11, 2017

Week two's class began with a lesson on "Use of Force" by Sergeant John Mennone.  He covered the laws and court cases that guide a police officers right to use force, as well as, why police officers at times must use force.  He also provided brief information on the firearms the Meriden Police Officers use and the training entailed to qualify with the firearms.  He also stressed that all officers must have strong communication skills in this profession in order to attempt to de-escalate a situation and avoid the need for force altogether.
Citizen Academy Class 2The next hour, Officer David D'Onofrio and Officer Ken Egan instructed the class on the less lethal or compliance weapons, the Meriden Police Department officers carry on their belts; which include, the OC Spray (more commonly known as pepper spray), the collapsible baton and hand-cuffs. The officers showed a couple of videos of the OC Spray to show the class the effects of the spray.  They also provided a brief hand-cuffing demonstration on one another to show the class how hand-cuffs work.
The night concluded with Detective John Femia teaching the class about the Laws of Arrest, which included a review of Constitutional Law, specifically covering the fourth amendment, the fifth amendment and various case laws.  Numerous participants in the class asked the Detective about what their rights were and what the police were allowed to do.  

 January 18, 2017

Participants of the 2017-01 Meriden Citizen Police Academy met for the third week in a row to continue their learning process about the Meriden Police Department.  
This week's program opened with a 90 minute segment on the Meriden Police Department's Special Operations Unit, focusing on our SWAT team.  Lt. Milslagle, Sergeant Raszcewski and Officer Decrisantis presented to the class the team's structure, training, selection process to be on the team, and some of the equipment the team is trained to use for operations.  They then showed the class a video of the team's training school and concluded the class by answering numerous questions.Citizen Academy Week 3
After a break, the Meriden Police Internal Affairs Unit, Sergeants Fry and McKay,  spent the remainder of the course presenting the different aspects of their office.  They discussed how the department receives complaints and some of the process for how they are investigated.  They further discussed employment background checks, body cameras, in-car dash cameras, and how technology is aiding in internal investigations.  The participants asked excellent questions of the instructors and indicated that they learned a lot.
*Due to the volume of questions following both segments presented of Unit 3's program, the Emergency Communications Segment that had been scheduled from 8pm - 9pm, has been postponed to a future date.


February 1, 2017 

The evening began with the Mayor of Meriden, Kevin Scarpatti, providing a class on local government.  He explained the structure of the City government, the processes in place for citizens to use the services of the City government and how the police department fits into the government processes.  City Councilor Sonya Jelks and Cathy Battista, who are students in the Citizen Police Academy, also provided some insight into the processes and some plans to bring the city forward in the means of technology.

 In the second hour of class, State's Attorney James Turcotte, presented the judicial processes that follow a person after they are arrested by the police.  He also explained the court system within the State of Connecticut, the presumption of innocence, convictions, plea bargains and various types of alternative solutions to incarceration.  
Unit 4 Search and Seizure Finally, in the last hour of the evening, Detective John Femia, Esq. presented the Laws of Search and Seizure to the class.  He explained the process of a search warrant in relation to the US Constitution and the exceptions to the search warrant requirement.  He provided numerous examples of when a police officer may search a person, their property or their home and when they cannot.  






February 8, 2017

The Citizen Academy entered into the half way point of the program.  This week's topics began with LT Sherwood instructing about the Neighborhood Initiative Unit, SRO Prorgam and Community Policing.  Sherwood_Unit6
The second session for that evening was led by Holly Wills, president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA).  She discussed what CONA is, their mission statement and the dozens of events they participate in annually.  
The evening was concluded with Detective Femia providing a review of street gangs.  He covered how gangs are formed, how young people are recruited into gangs and how the police can respond to gang issues or violence.  












February 23, 2017

The Citizen Police Academy students were provided both class room and practical skills lessons on traffic stops.  The class started with Detective Joseph Robison, Detective Michael Fonda, and Officer James Decrisantis providing an hour of classroom instruction on the basics of a motor vehicle stop by police.  They discussed why police stop motor vehicles, common traffic violations, officer safety issues during a traffic stop and how a traffic stop can be one of the most dangerous situations for a police officer.
After a short break, about one third of the class members participated in a practical skills traffic stop exercise.  A police cruiser and a detective vehicle were pre-positioned in a traffic stop formation in the back lot of the PD / court house.  The students were equipped with a bullet proof vest, duty belt, radio and a "blue gun".  Officer Decrisantis played the driver and the participating citizen academy student role played as the police officer.  Detective Fonda simulated as the dispatcher for the scenarios.  Citizen Academy Traffic 1
​Several of the Citizen Academy students commented after the scenario how quickly that a simple traffic stop ​can escalate into a life and death situation.  While students participated in the practical skills exercise, the remainder students in the class were shown real world videos of traffic stops.  
Overall, the class seemed successful and eye opening for the participants.  Next week the class will be instructed by the four different investigative units within the Detective Division.

March 1, 2017

The Citizen Police Academy entered into its 9th week of instruction.  This week featured lessons and briefings about the Meriden Police Detective Division.  The class opened with Deputy Chief Walerysiak, who had run the division for four years, providing a complete overview of the Division. 
Detective Sergeant Nesci, supervisor of the Special Crimes Unit, instructed the next segment of the course.  He discussed the cases his unit investigates, which includes juvenile crimes, special victim cases and sexual deviance crimes.  
Citizen Academy Detective UnitThe next segment was led by Detective Lieutenant Burstein, newly promoted commander of the division, who discussed the Major Crimes Unit.  He explained how cases are received, investigated and solve-ability factors.  He also discussed the pistol permits process and what constitutes a major crime.  
After a short break, Detective Sergeant Cardona, supervisor of the Crime Suppression Unit, provided the class with an overview of his unit's responsibilities, which includes investigations of vice and narcotics crimes, gambling and joint task force related investigations.  
Citizen Academy Detective Unit 2
​The class concluded with Detective Sergeant Clements, supervisor of the Evidence and Identification Unit, providing​ a brief lecture on his unit's responsibilities before moving onto a practical skills exercise of dusting and lifting fingerprints.  Many of the students in the class were able to use magnetic style powder and attempt to fingerprint a Styrofoam Cup.  The task proved to be both challenging and educational.  

March 15, 2017

The Meriden Police Citizen Police Academy held its eleventh weekly session on 03/15/2017.  The course began with a class photo, courtesy of Detective Justin Hancort.  After the photo, Meriden Police Crisis Intervention Specialist Pam Kudla instructed the class about the services she provides to the city, which include family services, interventions, referral services, counseling services for elderly needs, juvenile issues, sexual assault victims and domestic violence investigations.  She then provided the class with information about sexual assault investigations.
Chief Cossette then spoke to the class following a break and thanked everyone for their commitment and attendance to the Meriden Police Citizen Academy.  He offered his congratulations to the class and announced another Citizen Police Academy would be scheduled in the fall of this year pending on a continued interest from the community for the program.
Lt. Elionfante Week 11The next part of the evening consisted of Lieutenant Brian Elionfante, Commander of the Technology Unit, instructing the class on the many various aspects of technology and its importance in modern policing.  He provided an in-depth look into the crime analysis portion of technology, in relation to the creation of crime statistics charts, heat maps and part one crime tracking.  He further explained the rules set forth by the federal government in how we track crime and the future outlook of crime analysis.  
LT Elionfante also instructed the class as to the many features of the Meriden Police to Citizen website ( and how it works.  He explained the purpose of the program, as well as how to use it.  It should be noted that the use of technology is one of the fastest growing components of law enforcement today.
The evening concluded with a tour of the police department where the class was shown the Detective Division, the evidence services laboratory, the records unit, the technology unit, the MPD lounge, roll call room, gym, operations / booking desk and the cell block area.  
The Meriden Police Citizen Academy, Session 2017-01 concludes its twelve week program on Wednesday, March 22nd.  CPA Group Photo