Graduation held during week 10 of MBPD's Citizens Police Academy - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Graduation held during week 10 of MBPD's Citizens Police Academy

MBPD Chief Warren Gall and WMBF News Reporter Katrina Helmer MBPD Chief Warren Gall and WMBF News Reporter Katrina Helmer

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The 30th Session for the Myrtle Beach Citizens Police Academy held its graduation ceremony on Monday night.

Each of the 24 graduates had to attend eight of the ten classes and complete 15 to 20 hours of ride-along time with police officers. During the ceremony, each student received a diploma. Graduating from this class does not give the citizens any real policing power. The academy is designed to give an unfiltered look at the police department.

Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall addressed the class about the importance of sharing what the students have learned during their experience. And he encouraged each person to stay involved in the community after graduation.

“We've had 30 classes,” says Chief Gall. “You average that out, we've probably touched 600 graduates. And if we've touched their family and friends as well, if they've gone out and talked about it, we've probably reached double or triple that. Those are eyes and ears out there in the community that we need."

From the classroom demonstrations to the ride-alongs, each person had a different experience and new-found perspective of police officers and the city.

"You got to spend time with the officers and get to know them,” says Lisa Bowes, who was the class speaker. “The first officer I rode with was also the last officer I rode with. The level of maturity and the sense of giving back to the community that he exemplified made all the difference in the world to me."

Now many graduates are looking at how they can invest back in the city. Some will volunteer to help man barricades and direct visitors during city events. Many will get involved with the Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association. That group does a lot to provide meals for police officers during the holidays. In fact, the 30th Session collected $270 to donate to this year’s holiday meals.

One graduate, Gregory Mitchell II, lives in Myrtle Beach but works for the Georgetown County Juvenile Justice Department. Both of his parents graduated from the Citizens Police Academy in different classes before him. Mitchell says the academy is making a big impact on his job.

"It gives me more insight working with my juveniles,” says Mitchell. “To let them know that police officers are not just out here to pinpoint you out. They're here to protect and serve. And it's helped me out explaining to them officers are just like you and I. They have a job to protect us."

Chief Gall says the bottom line is that keeping the city safe is a two-way street.

"Those are eyes and ears out there in the community that we need to help us,” says Chief Gall. “Because we don't have enough on the streets. The county doesn't have enough on the streets. If we can get people to talk amongst themselves, to participate in community watch programs, to participate in events, call police and let us know what they're seeing. It's a force multiplier and that's what we're after."

If you're interested in joining the next academy, it is expected to start up in late January. That means application forms will be available starting sometime in December.

You can view all of Katrina's previous reports from the Citizens Police Academy below:

Citizens Police Academy begins in Myrtle Beach

Students learn about crime prevention resources in MBPD's Citizens Police Academy

Citizens Police Academy focuses on gang unit

DUI laws discussed during week 6 of Citizens Police Academy

Citizens learn about lethal, less-lethal tools at Police Academy

Citizens Police Academy learns about important K-9 Unit

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