What's going on in your neighborhood?

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Want to learn about firearms safety or search warrants? If you do, you're in luck, because local suburbs like Upper Arlington are offering residents a chance to look into the inner workings of their police departments.

The class size is limited to 12 Upper Arlington residents or business owners each year and topics covered over the 10-week course include: crime scene investigations, crime prevention tips, legal considerations and the laws of arrest, defensive tactics, firearms safety and training, patrol tactics and traffic stop practices, and police ride-alongs.

While the Academy attendees learn about how the police department helps protect and serve their community, how does the Police Academy help the police department? "We have educated citizens," said Galli, "who understand how we respond to specific needs.

They become advocates and they can be proactive on our part." With greater awareness of how and why the police department functions, the citizens who attend the Academy find themselves more involved with their own community and what they can do to serve it.

Children 5 to 6 years old can attend Safety Town in the summer. The first day is police officer day. "We go over what we do and why," Galli said. Children learn that police officers are their friends and are there to provide safety and enforce the law. Officers talk about being respectful and responsible. When bicycle safety is discussed, the lesson includes respecting motorists and pedestrians - often the kids' first opportunity to actually observe local laws. "We encourage parents to talk about what their children are learning and reinforce it at home," Galli said.

"With older children, we talk a lot about responsibility and choices. We impress upon teens that certain actions and behaviors might have serious consequences," Galli said. "Making good choices makes everyone safer." And although we generally hear about those who make bad choices, the truth is that most students are actually making good ones.

When Galli and other officers talk to older students in the community, they find it encouraging that students remember what they learned in Safety Town. Alumni from the Upper Arlington Citizen's Police Academy can help other residents understand how and why the officers do what they do, as well as promote local crime prevention and safety programs. And what can a 6-year-old learn? "When we went through my daughter's things to donate to others she found her old bike helmet," Galli said. "She told me she'd better keep it for her little sister because she said she'll need one soon."

Get involved!

To find out more about how you can serve your community, check out the following websites:

Marguerite Marsh is a freelance writer and winner of the Ohio Public Images 2008 Print Journalism Award of Excellence for her Columbus Parent Magazine article "Motherhood Redefined: Transformed by Treacher Collins Syndrome." In addition to writing about health and wellness, families, relationships and pets, Marguerite writes the pet blog, Heavy Petting.