Citizens Police Academy kicks off new classes

The Sevierville Police Department kicked off the 2014 Citizens Police Academy (CPA) Thursday with a class that includes retirees, security guards, marketing directors and teachers. The CPA is an outreach program designed to build a bridge of communication and cooperation between the Sevierville Police Dept. (SPD) and Sevierville citizens.

The attendees joined the class for a variety of reasons. One student is the brother of a police officer that was slain in the line of duty. As for this reporter, I am the nephew of a cop that served his community for 38 years. One afternoon he and four other officers were dispatched to a domestic disturbance. Upon arrival they discovered the man living in the house was strung out on crack cocaine. He had threatened to kill his family. His wife managed to escape out a window and call police. She left her four children inside at the mercy of a deranged man wielding a shotgun. My uncle, John Estes and the four other officers approached the house at which time the perpetrator bursted out and opened fire, cutting down all five officers.

Fortunately, Estes and three other officers sustained minor injuries. One officer was critically wounded, having sustained a substantial amount of buckshot to the forehead. Soon afterwards a SWAT team arrived and a sniper killed the assailant.

Having been raised around the police, I grew up learning to respect the law and those that serve and protect, prompting me to join the CPA. The ten week class will teach students what law enforcement professionals do on a daily basis. In the next nine weeks, the Tennessee Star Journal will run feature articles detailing what the CPA students learn and the activities they take part in.

In the first class, the students were given an introduction detailing the logistics and challenges involved in running a police dept.

According to Lt. Matt Ayres, the SPD employs 84 people. The 59 patrol units cover 200 miles of roadway. Although the city has a population of 16,000, the police have an average of 40,000 people they service when including all the tourists. This equates to 677 people for each officer on the beat. Clearly, the department is in need of more manpower, but doesn’t have the budget to hire more officers. The department operates on $6.1 million.

The department has won two awards through the state accreditation agency. The SPD has won three national accreditation awards.

The SPD writes 7,700 citations a year. Contrary to popular belief, the city does not profit from the citations. By state law, the monies received from citations is turned over to state agencies. The department made 1,325 arrests in 2013. They received 35,000 calls, investigated 1,900 motor vehicle crashes and filed 2,000 offense reports. The patrol units logged more than 500,000 miles collectively patrolling the city roads.

Fortunately, violent crime is not an epidemic in the city. Since 2007, only three homicides have been reported. Two of the three murders have been resolved and the killers are currently serving prison sentences. One of the three cases remains open.

Pills and shoplifting, however, are becoming an epidemic in Sevierville. Ayres points out that shoplifters are from out-of-state and come to town working in pairs in well-coordinated efforts to steal large quantities of merchandise. But, with surveillance cameras and the Internet, store detectives are able to keep close contact with the police to arrest the perpetrators and recover merchandise.

“We have recovered as much as $30,000 in stolen merchandise at once,” said Ayres.

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