Graduates gain understanding of police in Charlotte Citizens Academy

2014 CMPD Citizens Academy Graduates: From left, front row, Lee Sowers, Latavia D. McClain, Dawn Harris, Rebecca Jordan, Sandra Petralia Lutz, Melisa Ann Young, Kush R. Shah. Second row, Angel Bullock, Jenni Jackson, Gail M. Sanders. Third row, Carol McLaughlin, Shamika Lawrence, Marcus P. Boyd, Angela Pierce. Fourth row, Tracy L. Cox, Mayra Lozano, Ernest Jones Jr., Charlotte M. Peterkin, Gregorio A. Welch, Charles K Whittington Jr., Laura Edington. Back row, David J. Heuvelmans, M.A. (Tony) Hayes, Randy D’Agostino, Trina Renea Young, David J. Spinks, Clarence S. Darnell, Byron R. Martinez, Theodore Kramer III, Ann Radford, Ken Kilpatrick, Cindy J. Hazen, Timothy Shelton and David E. Smith Jr.

By Crystal O’Gorman

For information on CMPD’s Citizens Academy, contact Maria Williams, 704-432-1655, or visit

Seventy-five friends, family members and police officers applauded the 34 graduates who took the stage at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Citizens Academy graduation June 24 at the Police and Fire Training Academy.

Larry Robinson, a longtime Citizens on Patrol volunteer and past Citizens Academy graduate, was the guest speaker. Robinson recounted how CMPD had become a part of his family, supporting him when he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and when his mother died.

“Above everything I have learned and experienced, the CMPD has given friendship and loyalty to me and my family,” he said.

“Their endless compassion encouraged me to heal, and now I am doing what I enjoy most: helping them,” Robinson said.

Charlotte’s Citizens Academy was created in 1994 to give the community an opportunity to learn more about the roles and responsibilities of the police, how they train and how they serve the community.

Since the academy’s inception, 271 residents have graduated.

Training Coordinator Officer Kobe Moore said, “The Citizens Academy gives a behind-the-scenes look at our policies and why we do the things we do. … We want to show the public we are pretty transparent in our actions and reasoning.”

Capt. Demetria Faulkner-Welch said, “It also helps us learn more about the public’s concerns and perceptions of us.”

During the ceremony, Training Coordinator Maria Williams commended all 41 graduates, including those unable to attend the ceremony, on their commitment to the program and their genuine interest in the police department.

The graduates were just as enthusiastic about the CMPD’s commitment to the community. “This class gave me a deeper appreciation of how they put their lives on the line,” graduate Clarence Darnell said.

“This class made me want to get more involved,” said Sandra Lutz, who now volunteers with the CMPD’s Animal Control.

Byron Martinez, an Hispanic community advocate, said, “Being a mediator for the Hispanic community, I often hear about the suspected wrongdoings of law enforcement, and this opportunity has helped me see the human behind the badge. …

“I will take this deeper understanding into account in my work and use it to better understand both sides of every situation.”

The Citizens Academy is open to all Mecklenburg County residents who are at least 18 and can pass a background check. Graduates are required to complete nine educational workshops and eight practical activities within two years.

The educational workshops inform students on the history of the CMPD, police selection and training, as well as in-depth explanations of various arms of the police department, such as Internal Affairs and Criminal Investigation. Practical activities give hands-on opportunities to learn defensive tactics, firearms training, police driving, traffic-stop procedures and crime reporting, search and forensics lab work.

Crystal O’Gorman is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Crystal? Email her at

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