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Academy Will Give Residents a Taste of Police Work

A new program is designed to help civilians see "how something can go from a routine call to something very dangerous."

Sign up for the Citizens Academy, and you'll get a chance to strap on a gun belt and make a traffic stop or two.

OK, so it's a fake gun and the stops are simulated, but you'll get a taste of what it's like to be an Orange County sheriff's deputy as part of a new leadership program approved unanimously by the San Clemente City Council on Tuesday.

The city will pay $15,000 to run the 12-week program. The cost covers deputy time, transportation for field trips, a graduation dinner and other expenses.

The training is aimed at building a spirit of cooperation between residents and San Clemente Police Services. Lt. John Coppock, who pitched the program to the City Council, said each of the 25 class members can act as a "goodwill ambassador" to other residents.

The training, discussion and field trips are designed to show residents the deputies' points of view in dealing with situations in the field.

"They'll be able to see how something can go from a routine call and routine encounter to something very dangerous," Coppock said. "And I think that will be very enlightening."

The academy idea comes amid lingering debate over a February incident in which a deputy shot and killed Marine Sgt. Manny Loggins in front of his two daughters in a parking lot at San Clemente High School.

Field trips will include sojourns to spots like Theo Lacy Jail and the emergency operations and dispatch center on Loma Ridge. Deputies will explain operations in various parts of the department and encourage discussion.

Coppock said departments all over Orange County have similar programs, and they often act as a conduit for recruiting volunteers to police services and city government.

Look for more information on Patch in the coming months about how to sign up for the Citizens Academy.

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