Academy gives people glimpse behind the blue line

Citizens drawn by interest in law enforcement
Mar. 23, 2013 @ 07:06 AM

Curt and Maria Hiller wanted to learn ways to keep their community safe. Harvey Dancy always wanted to be a police officer but couldn't, but he wound up viewing the inner sanctum of law enforcement as a civilian. Nathaneal Blache went from a casual interest in policing to being serious about it and actually became a police officer. All three had one thing in common: They decided to enroll in the Lenoir Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy.

Each year, the department invites those interested in how police go about the business of serving and protecting to attend the eight-week program. Classes are held in the department’s training room. The topics include communications, property and evidence, criminal investigations, crime prevention, and legal issues of policing. Participants also learn firearms safety and drive a patrol car.

Dancy, 70, has been to every academy since its inception in 2005. He always loved law enforcement, but after being turned down by the U.S. Air Force due to seizures, he figured the cop life was out. He still wanted to feel a part of the action.

After eight academies and counting, he said, the learning never stops.

“It always changes,” Dancy said. “I enjoy (the academy), all the guys and gals are friends now. I like going to the firing range.”

The Hillers moved to Lenoir from New Hampshire in 2006.They both work in hospitals and see up close the ravages caused by crime, guns and drugs.

“We wanted to learn more about our law enforcement, and how we can help as citizens to keep our community safe,” Curt Hiller said.

Maria Hiller started out “scared to death” of weapons.

“They showed me how to work through that (fear), to not be afraid of pulling that trigger,” she said. “It’s nice to know, if the time comes, I can handle a gun more safely.”

Blache was the youngest in his academy class of 2006. He and a friend, Keith Howell, had just graduated from West Caldwell High School and decided to apply. Howell’s sister, Andrea Trivette, worked at the Lenoir Police Department.

“I said, 'Let’s check it out,'” Blache, a Trinidad native, said. “They showed us enough to spark my interest. I had no family that were cops or in the military.”

Blache starting talking to the academy instructors about how he could become a police officer. they advised him to enroll in the Basic Law Enforcement Training class at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. The Caldwell County Sheriff's Office sponsored him, and he enrolled in BLET. Still a Trinidad citizen, he completed the paperwork to became a naturalized U.S. citizen and joined the Lenoir Police Department in April of 2008.

Blache credits the academy for sparking his interest in a career in law enforcement.

“You think it’s (academy) is for older people,” Blache said. “I would tell young people, don’t be afraid to apply for the academy. You could get a better understanding of how the police department works as a whole.”

The Hillers and Dancy plan to sign up for the next academy, taking place April 4-May 23.

“I highly recommend it for all citizens of Lenoir,” Curt Hiller said.

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WANT TO SIGN UP?

What: Lenoir Police Citizens’ Police Academy

Where: Lenoir Police Department, 1035 West Avenue NW

When: Each Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. April 4-May 23

How to apply: Applications are due by mid-day April 1. Applications are available at the Lenoir Police Department and at www.cityoflenoir.com. Participants must be 18 or older with no criminal convictions other than minor traffic offenses. For more information, call 828-757-2100.