BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon Police Department is adding to its ranks — but city council won’t have to spend a dime to compensate these enthusiastic newcomers.
The BPD recently organized and executed a five-week-long Citizens’ Police Academy, which commenced on Feb. 22 and wrapped up last Wednesday, on March 22. Each Wednesday at 6 p.m. eager volunteers gathered in the Community and Training Room at the Public Safety Complex to learn new skills, which will enable them to serve alongside regular officers during certain events, such as the W.Va. Strawberry Festival.
Four of the five graduates of the 2017 Citizens’ Police Academy will be joining Volunteers in Police Services, or VIPS, according to Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory. The new VIPS members will be Jamie Hasbrouck, Morgan Clutter, Ali Youngblood and McKenna Polen. Mary Thorp is also a graduate of the 2017 Citizens’ Police Academy, although she will not be serving as a member of VIPS.
VIPS is an innovative program that allows citizens to volunteer to help the BPD with tasks such as search and rescue, disaster response, traffic control and crowd assistance. New members learned about offense reporting, community policing, 911 operations, traffic control, radio operations, mock crime scenes, drug awareness, traffic laws, traffic accident investigation, use of force and self-defense, among other topics.
Youngblood, a West Virginia Wesleyan College senior who is majoring in political science and minoring in criminal justice, learned about the program when interacting with Lt. Doug Loudin. Youngblood has a work study at Wesleyan’s security office, and on occasion when Loudin has stopped by the office, he’s talked with Youngblood about the VIPS program and the Citizens’ Police Academy, knowing the student was interested in law enforcement.
“He thought it would be a good fit for me,” Youngblood said.
Youngblood said his favorite part of the police academy was learning self-defensive tactics.
“It’s always good to learn how to protect yourself in any situation,” Youngblood said.
The Wesleyan senior, who says he’s definitely considering a career in law enforcement, is “very excited” to suit up in his VIPS uniform and help the BPD out during the W.Va. Strawberry Festival.
“Overall, I definitely learned a lot – stuff I wouldn’t have learned in any way other than actually becoming a police officer,” Youngblood said.
Youngblood, Hasbrouck, Clutter and Polen will join nine other members of VIPS, bringing the program’s numbers up to 13.
Gregory said the academy progressed very well this year.
“The best benefit is getting to know new people in the community and establishing a rapport with them,” the police chief said. “I also believe the academy itself is a unique opportunity for citizens to learn first-hand about police work in general and about the Buckhannon Police Department specifically.”