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Sunday, March 03, 2024 — Houston, TX

RUPD hosts 15th Citizen’s Police Academy

Richard Li / Thresher

By Prasi Desai     1/23/24 9:22pm

The Rice University Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy classes will begin Jan. 29 after a five-year hiatus. The CPA offers free, interactive courses on RUPD’s departments and responsibilities for campus community members every Monday for nine weeks. 

Juan Alejandro, an RUPD sergeant who is overseeing the CPA, said the program allows the Rice community to connect with and learn from RUPD officers. According to Alejandro, planning for the 2024 program began last November after the CPA paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Every opportunity to strengthen the bond between law enforcement and the community is one that should be taken advantage of,” Alejandro said. 

Samantha Gutierrez, an RUPD detective and the internet safety instructor for the CPA, said the classes educate participants on roles and responsibilities within policing.

“Having some kind of knowledge on how to protect yourself is extremely important for anyone living in a large and dense city such as Houston,” Gutierrez wrote in an email to the Thresher. 

Alejandro said the program’s 25 slots filled up in under 12 hours. 

“It gives me satisfaction to know that people are interested in it,” Alejandro said.

According to Alejandro, classes will cover topics such as traffic stops, police technology, the history of policing, first aid and active threat training. A representative from the District Attorney’s office will explain the DA’s role in law enforcement. Rather than being purely lecture-based, Alejandro also said the classes are meant to be interactive.

According to RUPD Chief Clemente Rodriguez, the curriculum has been adapted since 2019 to include more lessons regarding police technology. 

“Some of the changes have come about because of the interest in transparency in law enforcement,” Rodriguez said. 

As a result, Alejandro said this year’s program will include lessons involving mobile automated fingerprint identification systems as well as impairment goggles, which simulate the feeling of intoxication.

Rodriguez said the CPA is also an opportunity for RUPD to learn more about the needs of the Rice community.

“Without the support of the community, we would definitely not be as effective,” Rodriguez said. 

According to Gutierrez, programs like these help forge connections between community members and their police department.

“An event such as the CPA gets the community involved and provides an understanding of various roles and responsibilities within policing,” Gutierrez wrote.

The Rice community is a key partner in campus safety, according to Rodriguez.

“Safety is the responsibility of everyone, not just the police,” Rodriguez said. 

Laura Lawrence, police officer at the Houston Police Department and alumni liaison for the HPD Citizen’s Police Academy, said that the HPD CPA, which has been operational since 1989, aims to inform citizens about the criminal justice system and law enforcement and to strengthen ties between the community and local police.

“The ultimate goal of the Citizens’ Police Academy was to reduce crime through a stronger citizen commitment to the police department and the community,” Lawrence wrote in an email to the Thresher. “Citizens are able to share their experiences and learned information with … their community to further improve and strengthen community-police relations in Houston.”

Alejandro said he hopes RUPD continues to host programs such as the CPA to educate the Rice community. 

“I hope that this is the beginning of additional classes that become the staple,” Alejandro said.

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