DATE gives Delaware citizens look at police work

Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Citizens Police Academy class member Danielle Passwaters of Milford is shown with certified firearms instructor DATE Agent Brian Hedrick during a recent exercise. (Submitted photos/DATE)

Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Citizens Police Academy class member Danielle Passwaters of Milford is shown with certified firearms instructor DATE Agent Brian Hedrick during a recent exercise. (Submitted photos/DATE)

DOVER — From about seven yards away, Kristine Arway triggered a shot.

The bullet missed its target, as did several others that followed.

It didn’t seem so difficult to shoot something so close, she said, but it was.

For eight weeks this winter, Ms. Arway and 19 other citizens continually learned what they didn’t know about police work at the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement’s first Citizens Police Academy.

For Ms. Arway, visiting the Delaware State Police firing range near Smyrna on March 2 was perhaps the highlight of her participation in the program.

“The gun range was absolutely awesome,” said the Long Neck resident who works in the medical field. “I had never held or shot a gun and had no idea what to expect.

“Safety was the biggest thing stressed, how to properly handle a gun. I will never look at a movie where someone pulls out a gun and shoots someone several blocks away while still on the move.

“At seven yards away, I didn’t hit a target.”

Dover resident Ralph D’Ottone left the final session on March 9 with a newfound respect for what police do.

After seeing a newspaper item announcing the academy, Mr. D’Ottone said he became “very intent in learning more about law enforcement.

Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Director John Yeomans joins Citizens Police Academy recruit Jene Duffy of Lewes.

Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Director John Yeomans joins Citizens Police Academy recruit Jene Duffy of Lewes.

“With all the bad press that police departments get these days, I wanted to get a better feel for things …”

His time spent each session continued to expand his perspective.

“Every week I would leave saying to myself ‘There’s no way they could top this week,’” said Mr. D’Ottone, a Brooklyn native who retired from the gas and utilities industry.

“At some point I thought that I didn’t want it to end.”

DATE Director John Yeomans and Deputy Director Rob Kracyla orchestrated the program, and plan to run another one about the same time next year.

Mr. Yeomans said the sessions were planned in the spirit of “transparency” and acknowledgment that the agency “can’t work in a silo.”

“In reality a lot of the day-to-day work we do revolves around community relations,” he said.

“When there’s a problem that you can work collaboratively on,” citizens can contribute more if “they understand what we’re doing.”

Greater familiarity was fostered through the program that met each Wednesday evening for two hours at the DATE office at 34 Starlifter Drive in Dover. The sessions debuted on Jan. 20 with Director Yeomans and Deputy Director Kracyla presenting an overview of DATE operations and its impact on community interests.

Also that night, Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary James Mosley made opening remarks.

At the academy’s conclusion, participants received a certificate of completion, a polo shirt and hat with a DATE logo. The citizens presented instructors with a plaque of appreciation that included all their names, along with a clear glass full of candy.

The civilians ranged in age from 21 to 73, and included retirees, ex-military members, nurses, business people, student and law enforcement hopefuls, Mr. Yeomans said. There were 25 applicants, all who were screened through a criminal history background check.

The program was free and open to Delaware residents.

Helping the cause

Six DATE officers served as instructors, and the nighttime hours didn’t come with extra pay benefits.

Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Deputy Director Robert Kracyla provides safety instructions to the Citizens Police Academy Class of 2016.

Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Deputy Director Robert Kracyla provides safety instructions to the Citizens Police Academy Class of 2016.

“That’s just part of it,” Mr. Yeomans said. “We don’t expect anything extra for it.”

The Delaware State Police also provided speakers and instruction, along with the Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner and Delaware Office of Highway Safety.

Private sector contributors included Delaware Wine Association President Adrian Mobilia; Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association and the Delaware Restaurant Association Educational Foundation; Starboard Restaurant owner and CEO Steve Montgomery; and Bob Trostle of United Distributors and president of the Delaware Wholesalers Association.

The agenda included sections on the Delaware Violent Crime Reduction Task Force, Special Tactics and Response Team supervised by the Smyrna Police Department, Division of Gaming Enforcement, fake IDs, alcohol and tobacco interdiction/diversion, cooperating underage witness program and a ride-along, responsible server training and fatal vision impairment goggle demonstration, among others.

In the second or third week of June, DATE is planning a youth academy for high school freshmen through junior students.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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