THE HISTORY OF THE JACKSONVILLE BEACH CITIZEN POLICE ACADEMY
In 1998, Chief Bruce Thomason assigned Steven B. Corbitt to research how to start a Citizen Police Academy. In July 1998, applications were received and Class I began. The first class was eight weeks long and was well accepted by members of the community. Many sessions followed and there was one request from all the students: more class time. Because of the student’s demand for more class time, Class III was increased to twelve weeks. Chief Thomason’s goal from the beginning is for every citizen of Jacksonville Beach to complete the Academy. We are well on our way, with Class XXII graduating in April 2009. A majority of the graduates live in Jacksonville Beach, and there are also graduates who live in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra Beach, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, Palatka, and Orange Park.
After Class III graduated in September 1999, Steve Corbitt talked about starting a Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association. Seven members of first three classes (B.J. Close, Lou Constantino, Lee Dorson, Nick Filips, Russ Lickfield, Sylvia Osewalt, and Mary Wolcott) met with him to see what we needed to do. Steve Corbitt obtained information and bylaws from various other Alumni Associations. The members of the committee prepared a set of by-laws and were ready when Class IV graduated in April 2000 to see if there was enough interest to go forward. The first meeting was held on April 20, 2000, with graduates of Classes I through IV. The by-laws were approved and officers elected. Many of the members from this founding group are still with us.
Since the beginning of the Alumni Association in April 2000, the alumni members continue to be more and more involved with the department and assume tasks that officers would otherwise have to do. They step in and allow officers to stay on the street and protect the citizens of the community. In 2012, members of our Association contributed over 11000 hours of labor officers would otherwise have had to provide. In 2008, members of the CPA Alumni Association organized, staffed, and conducted several community events that were enjoyed by hundreds of citizens. Some of these events include the annual Get Hooked on Fishing Not Drugs Kids Fishing Rodeo every May, the Kids Halloween Party in October and the Kids Christmas Party every December. In 2012 our membership has reached an all time high of 180 members.
In 2004, the Alumni expanded to allow members to become Citizens On Patrol (COP's) The first class graduated and began patrolling in October 2004. Since then there has been additional classes conducted each year. Members of the Citizens On Patrol unit are trained volunteers who conduct traffic direction and control, parking enforcement, proactive patrolling and do traffic crash reports. They wear a uniform and have 2 specially marked police cars. In 2012 all of the COP received additional training and now are equipped with computers in the patrol cars. The COP volunteers receive an additional 65 hours of specialized training on patrolling techniques, Florida laws, and report writing. COP members volunteered approximately 12,000 hours in 2015.