SACO — We’ve all seen crime dramas on television, but have you ever wondered what the job of a police officer is really like?

The Saco Police Department is hosting its ninth Citizen Police Academy next month and space is still available. The free community class begins Feb. 20 and will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays for nine weeks at the police station at 20 Storer Ave.

Students must be at least 18 years of age. All are welcome to apply, but preference is given to Saco residents. Those interested must submit a completed application by the end of the day Tuesday.

“The entire class is taught here by police officers and staff and the police department. We cover a lot of topics in nine weeks,” said Court Officer TammyJo Girard, who coordinates the Citizen Police Academy.

One of the more popular classes is a mock trial. A real-life judge, prosecutor and defense attorney will come to the class to participate in a mock trial about an operating under the influence case. A member of the police department will play a police witness, and a group of students from the class will be chosen as the jury. The mock jury will deliberate and determine if the defendant is guilty.

There will be plenty of other hands-on activities, including a chance to go to the police department’s shooting range and a fingerprinting exercise. Students will also learn about identity theft, scams and cybercrime, hear what a school resource officer does and get a sense of what it’s like to go to the police academy.

Girard said discussions in class are usually lively and include perspectives of students from different generations. The class is a welcoming and engaging environment where students not only learn about the duties of a police officer, but they get to know members of their local police force, she said.

“It’s such a positive thing we do. We enjoy working with the community,” Girard said.

Students who participate in at least seven of the nine classes can go on a four-hour ridealong with a police officer, Girard said.

Applications can be found at www.sacomaine.org/police or are available at the police station. For more information on the Citizen Police Academy contact Girard at 282-8214 or [email protected]

Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 780-9015 or at:

[email protected]

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