The 30 new graduates of the Santa Ana Police Department’s ninth Community Police Academy have emerged with a new understanding of the inner workings of their local law enforcement agency.
“The program is designed to get them an up-close look at the infrastructure of the police department, A through Z,” said Commander Joseph Marty, who oversees the 11-week academy. “We covered every aspect of this agency so they have a better understanding of the intricacies of each division because there is so much to know and learn about each division.”
The residents enrolled in the Community Police Academy for a variety of reasons. Some were hoping to gain a deeper understanding of their local police department, while others are pursuing careers in law enforcement. The residents learned that each division within the Santa Ana Police Department shares the same mission, Marty said, and that is to serve the community.
Over the course of the 11-week academy, participants spent time in each division, including crime scene investigation, patrol, investigations, jail operations, traffic, and the K9 unit. They visited the department’s headquarters, training facilities, and went on ride-alongs.
Brandy Cerda, 19, a lifelong resident of Santa Ana, learned about the academy from social media and signed up because she was already interested in forensic science within law enforcement.
“I thought this would be like a beginner’s experience into the field,” Cerda said. “On the first day, when they explained everything and all the hands-on activities, that is what caught my attention.”
Daniel Cacho of Irvine was already in the process of applying for a position as a jailer with the Santa Ana Police Department when he signed up for the academy.
“I just wanted to learn more outside of Corrections of what the department does,” Cacho said. “It has been everything I expected and more. The highest expectation I had was to learn a lot about policing, but it wasn’t just policing. It was CSI, it was K9, it was traffic, all of the other things that you don’t necessarily think about when you think about police departments.”
Lobelia Martinez works in the nutrition services department of the Santa Ana Unified School District and wants to become a district safety officer. Martinez enrolled in the academy to gain more knowledge about law enforcement, which she could then apply to the safety officer position.
“I had a blast,” Martinez said. “I got to meet new people. I made new friends.”
Residents are accepted into the academy on a first-come, first-served basis and must go through a screening process before being accepted. Even community members who’ve had a negative opinion of the police have gone through the academy.
“The program changed their perceptions of the police,” Marty said. “That is exactly our goal. Put the burden on us to change your perspective.”