Prince George's County's Citizens Academy graduates with new insights on policing

The Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) celebrated a milestone Monday with the graduation of its 50th Citizens Academy. 

This program offers residents a behind-the-scenes look at law enforcement operations and is meant to strengthen the relationship between the police and the community.

Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz emphasized the importance of this initiative. 

"It’s really so important for us to break down barriers and engage the community in what their police department is doing every day, to give them a small glimpse, a small snapshot into the day-to-day operations of the police department and what its officers are doing," he said.

Participants from diverse backgrounds and professions joined the 12-week course, including Sandra Gasaway, an assistant principal at Wise Junior High School, who served as one of the class speakers along with the PGPD’s Manager of Communications, Brian Fischer.

"We also had a program where we did a simulation, trying to see how we would solve a crime. While it’s funny for us, it’s serious in the world to see how our officers risk their lives every day to help us in the community," Gasaway said.


Inside the FBI Washington Field Office Citizens Academy

FBI Citizens Academy gave FOX 5 a behind-the-scenes look at their operations.

Chief Aziz highlighted the contrast between real police work and its Hollywood portrayal. 

"I think the eye-opener is that we won’t solve these crimes in 43 minutes. We wish we could," he said.

Although the participants, dubbed the "Elite 50," didn’t receive official badges or uniforms, they did don special jerseys. 

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FOX 5's Sierra Fox served as a guest speaker because she participated in a similar experience last year, at the FBI Citizens Academy

At the end of the course, everyone, including Chief Aziz, received a certificate and walked away with invaluable life lessons. 

Gasaway expressed her newfound appreciation for the police, saying, "It makes me want to say ‘I should’ve gone into becoming a police officer.’"

PGPD is actively seeking new recruits. 

"We need to hire as many as we can. We’ll take about 350 – right away," Chief Aziz stated.

Those interested in participating in the next Citizens Academy can look for details online soon.