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Citizen Academy gives residents a chance to observe LBPD in action –  and an adrenaline rush or two

By CAMERON GILLESPIE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Citizen Academy, a highly-praised 13-week hands-on but no-stress course designed to provide community members with a better understanding of the workings of Laguna Beach police officers, and to help foster communication between police personnel and citizens, begins on Thursday Jan 25 at 6 p.m. 

Past graduates are effusive about the value of the experience – and the fun they had while taking part. 

Gaining a greater perspective on what police work entails is imperative, according to past graduate Mario Visin. 

One of the most impressive moments for Visin was how dangerous a routine traffic stop can be for a police officer. 

“An officer is set at a disadvantage here, so the training that goes in to learning how to approach a vehicle is tremendous,” Visin said. 

First responders face major challenges with every call

Past graduate Garrett Woods agrees that this was a revelation, realizing how little information first responders may have when responding to a call. 

“Someone calling in to 911 might be panicked and might be unable to get the necessary facts out. This leaves officers up against the challenge of not knowing what is happening at a location,” he said. “They don’t know whether it’s a drunk beach-goer, a choking child, or an armed robber. I don’t think I’d be able to handle that well.” 

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LBPD & fire personnel respond to a call

Woods went on to say “I learned skills I never would have known otherwise and gained a completely new perspective on the city I know and love.”

Mario Visin also said that the K9 demonstration using LBPD’s Ranger was “incredible,” one of the highlights of the course. “Ranger is highly trained and is a valuable asset to the force. He can sniff out the drugs and chase down the bad guys on command.”

Expect an adrenaline rush – or two…

Spoiler alert: according to Visin, the event even has an unannounced shooting off of a gun in order to provide a taste of what sort of hyper awareness/readiness a police officer needs to have in order to respond in the case of an emergency.

These heightened adrenaline moments are something that only the best Hollywood movie makers can depict and make it feel real – until, that is, you take part in the Citizen Academy. 

But, better than Hollywood, the Citizen Academy promises to give you the real facts behind some of these glitzy moments. 

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Ranger in one of his more mellow moods, with his handler Corporal Fillers

Sonny Myers, another past graduate (class 22), CERT Board member and Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee Member, already had an extensive background in understanding what to do in case of an emergency, but going through the Citizen Academy gave him “a real appreciation of the professionalism, commitment to duty and ongoing training that our Police Department undertakes every day to make our city a better place to live,” he said.

“It was a blast!” says Sonny Myers

Myers had been selected to be class president by Captain Darin Lenyi, now Police Chief of the city of Placentia. “Our class was taught gun safety and we did target practice with AR-15 long rifles. I found out that I’m actually a pretty good shot. It was a blast!” 

Stu News Laguna’s own Allison Rael, who has covered the Citizen Academy in the past took part in the classes “during a time when nationwide anti-police sentiment was on the rise. I found the class to be extremely enlightening given the context and it gave me a new perspective.”

The course demystifies what a police officer’s daily routine looks like, and allows residents to see first hand how highly trained professionals operate under a pressurized set of circumstances.

Visin mentioned that the Citizen Academy “has a membership feel to it that could be expanded to have real value for the community and the members.” This inspired him to start “working on a community cause based technology that connects people, place and things.”

Learn about crime scene investigation and more

The academy course, which meets every Thursday from 6 – 9:30 p.m. for 13 consecutiive weeks, beginning Jan 25, includes instruction in the following areas: History of the LBPD, investigations, traffic enforcement, accident investigation, driving under the influence investigation, gangs, narcotics, neighborhood watch, crime prevention, crime scene investigation, police K-9 program, volunteer programs, and other relevant topics. 

There is also a a tour of the LBPD and the OC Jail. Academy members will be given the opportunity to shoot at the police firing range and participate in mock scenarios. 

Applications should be received by Jan 19 and are available at www.lagunabeachcity.net or www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/police/cominfo

For questions regarding this program, contact class coordinator Ross Fallah at

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 464-6624.