The graduating class for Pasadena Police Department’s Community Academy “En Espanol” gathered together to pose for a picture to commemorate their special night.
The picture made up of 50 students and a dozen or so police officers told the tale of the friendships forged at this 8-week community class, held every Thursday at 6:00 p.m. since September 19th.
From traffic safety to mental health services, homelessness and forensics and domestic violence to cyber-crimes, there is no topic left unturned as Pasadena Police officers attempt to shed light on what happens in a police department.
For Pasadena PD , the academy allows them to connect with the community in a way they can’t do on a day-to-day.
“What we try to do is talk about all of our different experiences we each have in our departments. This seems to help everyone understand what we do,” said Pasadena PD Corporal Joaquin Gurrola. “We also do a lot of hands on activities, which is always interesting to see who ends up freezing up when they are put in a scenario, like a knife wielding suspect. They always tell us they didn’t know how it would feel until they were finally in it.”
For the students, their experience at the academy sheds light and changes the way they see their law enforcement officials. But it also inspires them keep their community safe and thriving.
“I moved here from Guatemala a year ago and I knew that I wanted to learn about my rights and also how to give back to my community,” said Mirsa Gomez, who graduated from the Academy in November. “This whole experience has been amazing. I learned a lot about my rights, what services are available and how we can help the police. I hope to volunteer with the Department in the future.”
The Community Academy “En Espanol” was started by the Pasadena Police Department in 2013. The program is held twice a year, usually in May and September. Since its inception, there have been a total of 11 classes and 506 graduates.
Participants are recruited through referrals from local partner organizations, community centers, referrals from past participants, and through recruitment done by Community Services staff at local community meetings and events. Class size typically ranges from 40-50 participants, although the Pasadena PD has had a class as large as 61 graduates, according to Yadira Sanchez, Program Coordinator for the Pasadena Police Department.
The “En Espanol” graduation was held in the locker room of the Rose Bowl on a November weekday evening. The Department had a taco bar station and there were Pasadena PD volunteers who provided coloring books for kids arriving with their parents. The Pasadena PD had made sure to treat the graduation not just like any other night, but a special one. One that celebrates the students who went from strangers into neighbors.
“We enjoy having these graduations and really celebrating what they have accomplished,” said Chief John Perez. “This is always such a great experience for them and for us.”