LORAIN — Corina Barranco, a local high school senior, said she was afraid of police officers because of a past experience before she attended Citizens Police Academy.
“Coming here, it totally changed my perspective of police and what they do,” she said. “They earned my respect because before that, like I said, I just feared them, I feared for my life.”
Barranco is the youngest graduate of the program’s current and past two classes. She and 12 other graduates were recognized at a graduation ceremony Nov. 20 at the police station.
The Citizens Police Academy is a program intended to open the lines of communication between the community and the department, according to the Lorain police website. The program allows everyday people to experience the rules, regulations and policies of law enforcement as well as dispel some misconceptions about the police force.
Police Chief Cel Rivera spoke at the graduation, saying the communication residents have with their police force can change the conversation about law enforcement.
Detective Jake Morris, who is the director of the program, couldn’t thank the graduates enough for their hard work and willingness to see what officers go through.
“We are all stakeholders,” Morris said. “We’re bound together by wanting the best things for the city of Lorain.”
Citizens Police Academy students attend the course 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays for 10 weeks. Their lessons include jail operations, evidence collection, officer safety and defensive tactics, criminal investigations, police dog operations, firearms and patrol techniques.
Other program attendees were Jay Nimene, director of student and parent outreach at Lorain Schools; Greg Argenti, 4th Ward councilman; Steve Bansek, member of the Lorain Port Authority Board; and Lynn Wrice-Head, director of the new St. Elizabeth Center on Caroline Avenue and East 28th Street.
Rivera’s hope, he said, was for residents to recognize the person behind the badge after meeting the officers. But he also said the graduates should not walk away thinking their time and effort is no longer needed.
“I want you to know we did not invite you to this class to be blind cheerleaders, or a rubber stamp for the Lorain Police Department, or proof of everything that we do. We need to be held accountable,” he said. “We learned as much from you as you hopefully learned from us. Our quest was understanding.”
To register for the next class, call Detective Jacob Morris at (440) 204-2570 or the chief’s office at (440) 204-2103.