ST. CLOUD -- A new program offered by the Whitney Senior Center aims to give local senior citizens a glimpse into the work of law enforcement officers.

The eight-week Senior Citizens Police Academy, modeled after the popular Metro Citizens Police Academy, will highlight key aspects of police work – patrol procedures, use of force, crime scenes and evidence, canine officers, criminal law, ethics and more – specifically tailored to older participants.

"We sat down a few months ago with the folks at Whitney and asked, 'what if we did something specifically directed toward the aging population," said St. Cloud Police Sergeant Tad Hoeschen. "We'll do it here at Whitney, and do more lecture-based, informative sessions where they can view some demonstrations and participate in discussions, but not necessarily do anything physical."

Laura Hood, Director of Aging Services at the Whitney, says crime and safety are of great concern to many of the people she sees daily. Hood says seniors, a population frequently targeted by financial scammers, might not necessarily know when and how to call the police when they should.

"We find barriers with folks from the aging community," Hood explained. "They don't want to be embarrassed by making a mistake, or have people judge them. And they might not want to report because they don't know how. So, a really large goal of this program is to teach them how to report, and introduce them to the officers who might show up at their doors when they do."

Another goal of the program, says Hood, is to demystify crime statistics and help seniors gain accurate perspectives on how safe they are in their homes and neighborhoods.

"We hear the stories of things that aren't going well in our community, and we're left with this impression that we aren't very safe, or that times have really become bad," Hood said. "I think the takeaway will be - yep, you're going to find out about the underbelly of the community, but you're also going to hear about the many systems and people in place to keep our community safe, and how we as neighbors can look out for one another."

The Senior Community Police Academy is free and open on a first come, first-served basis. The first session is Wednesday, March 18 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and runs through May.

To learn more or register, call the Whitney Senior Center at 320-255-7245.

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