Following a successful program last year, Alaska State Troopers are holding a second Kenai Peninsula Citizen Academy.
Capt. Andy Greenstreet said troopers got a lot of positive feedback from the roughly 25 citizens who graduated from the course last year, so the troopers E-Detachment decided to educate more people about troopers’ role on the peninsula.
He said troopers have a broad range of responsibilities, especially compared to law enforcement in the rest of the U.S.
“When you sign up to be a trooper you’re pretty much responsible for knowing it from A to Z,” Greenstreet said.
Nancy Whiting, from Nikiski, graduated from the course last year. She said she signed up for the academy because “troopers were a mystery” to her, she didn’t understand what troopers do and don’t do and why they are responsible for certain things. She wanted to know where troopers fit into Alaska law enforcement.
“I really had no clue,” Whiting said.
Before the academy she felt like the agency was like a “secret organization.” She now feels that she has a comprehensive understanding of the troopers and their responsibilities. She was surprised to learn there where so many different units in within the troopers including Wildlife Troopers and the Bureau of Highway Patrol. But to her, the most important thing she gained from the course was getting to know the troopers as people.
“Some of them are funny and entertaining, some are really nice. … It kind of took the veil of intimidation down to practically zero,” she said.
Greenstreet said the 12-week academy will cover a range of topics possibility including search and rescue, crime scene investigation, sex offender registration and DUI processing.
“We can’t fit all of it into the sessions but we try to give them an overall flavor of what it is a trooper does,” Greenstreet said.
With each topic, Greenstreet said, the troopers try to bring in instructors who are specialists in the area to teach that particular class, explaining what they do in their unit, how they do it and past successes.
Many of the instructors are from the Anchorage area because troopers have more resources there, he said. However, if the agency is able to, it utilizes Kenai Peninsula-based experts.
Whiting said the most interesting classes to her last year were crime scene and cold case investigations and drug enforcement — learning how troopers find out that people are using or selling drugs.
Greenstreet said the academy will help to give people a more accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be a trooper than National Geographic Channel’s TV show, “Alaska State Troopers.”
“(The show) can be a real misrepresentation of what we do sometimes because … they take this exciting part and they add it to another exciting part,” Greenstreet said. “In-between is whenever we’re doing an investigation, we’re getting search warrants and all those types of things, so people don’t really get to see that aspect of what it is we do (on the show).”
Along with taking the course, Greenstreet encourages citizens to do a ride-along with a trooper during the academy or close to graduation to round out the experience.
“By the end of the program it gives those community members a really good sense of what it is the troopers do,” he said.
Registration for the course is required, and troopers are accepting applicants until Dec. 6 at 4:30 p.m. The 12-week course is on Tuesdays from 6 – 9 p.m., and will begin on Jan. 7, 2014. Classes will be held at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai.
The academy is free and applicants must be at least 18 years old, live in Alaska, and pass a background investigation. Convicted felons and some misdemeanor convictions will not be allowed to take the course.
Applications for the academy are available at the Soldotna trooper office or online at http://dps.alaska.gov/PIO/docs/Kenai_ASTCA_Application.pdf.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.