Community volunteers help APD learn about neighborhoods

Coach Jamil Hood performs his usual circuit of drills, but this time it has new faces involved: two cadets from the Albany Police Department, trying their hand at dribbling through the cones.

“These police officers here spend a lot of time just being here today because they put in overtime of their own time to be here to learn about the communities before they start,” Hood said.

Hood is part of a program that pairs Albany officers-in-training with volunteers to introduce them to their communities. Each neighborhood has a liaison, providing a unique perspective on how their neighborhood works.

“Law enforcement officers are part heroes; they go out and do a lot of different things. So we want to make sure that we connect positively with our law enforcement officers,” Hood said.

Even Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins participated in a few drills. He says interns should spend as much time in their community as they do in the classroom.

“It’s another thing to go out and talk to the people who are actually in the community, to learn the history of the community; to learn all the dynamics and all the different neighborhoods. To hear how people in this community want to be monitored,” Hawkins said.

Between drills, Hood takes the time to get to know these cadets and offers a lifetime of knowledge he gained growing up in Albany.

“Saying hello and hello, especially with kids. You know, ‘hey man, it’s okay, keep your head up,’” Hood tells the interns.

Hood prefers to use his weekly time with the cadets to connect them with the children he trains. Trust between the next generation and these future officers, he says, is essential.

“It opens their eyes to see the other side and say, you know, ‘it’s cool to be a cop,'” Hood said. “We need a good variety of law enforcement officers in our community, so it’s good for those guys to see that at that age so they can strive to make it happen.”

At the end of the hoops session, Hood uses the time to reflect for both children and cadets.

“That’s what you said before about how a lot of people are told not to be a cop because of this or that. Anyone can do it; just stay on the right way,” said Tristan Marcello, one of the interns.

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