LIHUE — Charlee Abrams enrolled in Kauai Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy because she wanted to know what goes behind the scenes of a call to dispatch.
“My company manages ocean and beachfront rentals in Poipu, and we’ve had problems with trespassing and break-ins,” she said.
Abrams said before her husband died, he was the one to handle the police reports and notifying the community groups on the Southside.
“People seem to believe there’s no difference between us,” she said.
So, as a way to educate herself about police work, Abrams enrolled in the 2017 Citizens Police Academy. A 13-week program, the academy teaches civilians the ins and outs of police work. Participants do ride-alongs, go to the shooting range and drive patrol cars. They also complete several hours of classroom work.
“Some of the topics include the criminal justice system, community policing, Neighborhood Watch, domestic violence, and use of force,” said KPD Lt. Rod Green, one of the instructors in charge of the program.
Green said the inspiration for the academy, which began in 2012, was twofold.
“(We wanted) to build a better rapport with the community and give some insight as to what police officers experience,” he said.
On Sunday, the 13 members of the class were at Vidinha Stadium, where they got behind the wheel of a police car.
The goal: Complete an obstacle course without hitting any of the many orange cones set up in the parking lot.
Drivers had to back into and out of parking spaces, parallel park, swerve in and out of cones, and swerve between those cones backwards.
“This is going to be intense,” said Marta Miller.
Miller, who helped start a Neighborhood Watch group in Kapaa, said she’s enjoyed every aspect of the academy.
“Each class has gotten more and more intense,” she said. “We were at the firing range last week. I really liked target practice.”
Miller likes that the academy gives her a chance to have face time with other people in the police department.
“It’s interesting because usually, you get contact only with the patrol officers,” she said.
After going through the class, Abrams gained an appreciation for the work KPD officers do on a daily basis.
“I’ve learned our police are top-notch,” she said. “They’re extremely educated and caring.”
Abrams said she would recommend the program to anyone.
“I’ve had a lot of fun with this,” she said. “Anyone of any age would benefit.”
Green, who led Sunday’s class along with other training officers including Len Nitta and John Mullineaux, said his favorite part of heading the program is watching civilians gain a better understanding of police work.
“The most rewarding part is knowing that the participants have really enjoyed themselves and can see firsthand the complexity of our profession,” he said. “Hearing members of the class constantly comment on the professionalism of our instructors is definitely rewarding.”