ELBERTA - The first class of the newly formed Elberta Citizen’s Academy held a celebration ceremony during October. Graduates received certificates of completion and were given the opportunity to …
ELBERTA - The first class of the newly formed Elberta Citizen’s Academy held a celebration ceremony during October. Graduates received certificates of completion and were given the opportunity to share their experiences during the 11-week course. Afterwards, the graduates were treated to a cake and snacks provided by the Elberta Police Department.
“You are the first, you will always be the first class of Elberta’s Citizen’s Academy and I’m proud of that,” said former Elberta Police Chief Clif Roberts. “Out of my 32 years of service, this is one of the things I’m most proud of.”
The graduation ceremony was Roberts’s last official act as police chief for the town. He announced his retirement two days before the ceremony took place.
The Elberta Citizen’s Academy was first announced in late 2020, with plans to begin before the year ended. Hurricane Sally delayed the class from beginning as scheduled. The inaugural class of seven citizens was intentionally kept small. All graduates were given the opportunity to tell officers what they enjoyed, what they would like to see more of in the future, and what they felt could be done away with.
“Trying to reconnect with the local population is one of the things that these academies are so great for,” Roberts said. “The separation that’s come between the public and the police over the last few years has got to be done away with. A police department is only allowed to police as hard as its community wants it to police, it is responsible to every person in the town, and unfortunately some people have forgotten that. I’m lucky enough that I’ve never forgotten it.”
The Elberta Citizen’s Academy offers participants the chance to meet Elberta police officers face to face and learn about the department. The inaugural Elberta academy members had visits from the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office K9 unit, met a tactical squad, and drove a robot worth $250,000. Plans for potential future academies include CPR classes and trips to a shooting range. There is also the potential for a youth academy.
“It exceeded my expectations, I got to see a lot more of what the officers do and how they go about it, and learn a bit more about how they go about dealing with the community,” said Donald Smith III, graduate of Elberta Citizen’s Academy. “When I was first told about this, I thought, ‘Okay, we’re going to go and get to talk to a few cops and that’ll be the end of it,’ but no, it was a lot more than I expected. Honestly if there was another academy, not only would I come again, I’d try to get some more of my friends to come.”
Follow the Elberta Police Department on Facebook for details on future academies. The Elberta Citizen’s Academy is free to attend.