The Concord Police Department is preparing to host its 26th Citizen Police Academy, which aims to provide community members with an inside look at local law enforcement and an overview of the police department's function and operations.

For 25 Concord and Clayton residents, 10 weeks of classes, beginning March 4, will introduce a variety of topics and training taught by police executives and veteran police officers.

"It's an overview and insight about what Concord police do," said Sgt. Russ Norris, who has been involved in the academy for about three years. "People drive by cops all the time and wonder why three cops are at that traffic stop or why are they are at that house -- the hope (for the academy) is that we give a little more understanding."

Most of the classes include presentations from different departments, including motor traffic, dispatchers, SWAT, K-9 and CIA units, said Margaret Romiti, the volunteer and emergency services coordinator at the police department.

The academy also includes a ride-along with an officer and an opportunity to use training devices to enact a police response scenario.

The program started in the early 1990s as a way to introduce the police department to the Concord community and potentially gain new volunteers, Romiti explained. Now with a thriving volunteer base, the agency is designed "to reach out to citizens and educate them" about roles filled in the police department.

Often, she said, young people interested in a career with a police department come to get an idea of what life is like on the job.

It is not intended to provide any sort of real training as officers, she explained.

"I think every citizen in Concord should go through it," said police volunteer Gina Scheer, a Concord resident and Realtor who went through the academy about a year ago.

"I always had respect for police officers, but I got a better understanding of what they do for us everyday," Scheer said. "You have to be a special person to do what they do."

To get a spot in the program, candidates must be at least 16 years old, live or work in the Concord area, have no felony convictions and have no minor misdemeanor convictions within one year of application.

With only 25 spots per academy, qualified candidates will have their applications saved for the next 10-week session -- which are typically once every year.

"What I like best is the opportunity is to get to know groups of our citizens -- this gives us an opportunity to know them longer-term," Norris said. "We can get to a better mutual understanding, and they can get a clear picture of what police do."

to participate
WHAT: Concord's Citizen Police Academy
WHEN: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, beginning March 4; continues for 10 weeks
WHERE: Concord Police Headquarters, 1350 Galindo St.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: Feb. 20
INFORMATION: http://www.cityofconcord.org/police/joinin/academy.aspx