Troopers hold Citizen Academy on the Peninsula

The Alaska State Troopers and the Department of Public Safety are organizing a Citizen Academy in Soldotna designed to enhance the public’s understanding of troopers’ community role.

The objective is not preparing graduates to become troopers, but rather promoting an understanding of the Soldotna-based E Detachment’s functions and services. According to a press release, unrealistic Hollywood ideals spread misinformation about policing across the country.

“I think there is misinformation,” said Soldotna trooper Cpt. Andy Greenstreet. “(Alaska State Troopers) can be a great program for entertainment value, but a lot of the time what really happens, what our jobs really consist of, gets edited out. So, the academy works on showing the whole picture.”

This is the first academy on the Kenai Peninsula. Registration is required to attend, and there are mandatory requirements. Troopers aim to alleviate some misconceptions by examining statutes and policies that guide them through their daily routines.

As of the week of Feb. 10, Wasilla-based troopers were holding their second academy. The Matanuska-Susitna Valley’s initial academy was “very successful,” said trooper coordinator Sue Macholz via email. She hopes the response on the Peninsula will be as receptive, she said.

Registration is required of residents who meet the academy’s three criteria, the same criteria used for Department of Safety employees: participants must be at least 18, they must pass a background investigation that includes a criminal history check and they must reside within the state.

The academy will be segmented. One night will cover search and rescue and call response while the next night will cover laws and policies, though the details are not yet ironed out. For two months, residents will be required to attend a single evening class as well as one or more weekend classes. Also, residents may sign up for ride-alongs with the troopers during the classes, which Macholz encouraged.

“The participants are encouraged to ride with a trooper and see interaction with the public first-hand,” Greenstreet said. “They’ll see how troopers truly operate.”

This academy will take a substantial commitment by every citizen attending, Macholz said.

The academy is March 13 through May 22. The application deadline is 4:30 p.m. on March 4. The class size is limited to 30 students. Classes will be held at the Emergency Response Center at 253 Wilson Lane in Soldotna. Applications can be picked up and dropped off at the Alaska State Trooper post located at 46333 Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna or found on the AST Public Information Office website.

Included with the troopers’ press release was a primer on citizen academies; it examines a few gripes about authorities, such as, “To our citizens, it may frequently appear that troopers are not doing their job or exceeding their authority.” Such sentiments are visible on the Clarion’s online articles about crime. Residents often voice concern about what they perceive as troopers’ lack of interest in certain issues.

The academy’s segment focusing on procedural laws and statutes, Greenstreet said, should help clear the air.

“They’ll know where our threshold is,” he said. “The participants will better understand how we work within the confines of the law.”

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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