By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Urban, suburban and rural citizens from all walks of life are training to enhance their local block watches and to prepare for their roles in homeland security.
Thirty-five volunteer civil deputies attended Monday evening's first session of the first Mahoning County Sheriff's Citizen's Police Academy at the Mahoning County Justice Center. They will attend two-hour evening sessions Monday and Wednesdays until March. Another group of 35 will be attending four-hour Saturday morning sessions over the same time period.
"If we're up against a wall, we'll know how to react. If a criminal is doing something, we will know how to act more appropriately," Richard Harris of Youngstown, a course participant, said of the benefits he hopes to attain from the academy.
Harris is a private security guard and a member of the new Mistletoe (Avenue) Knights block watch on the city's South Side.
A 'why' person
"I have an interest because I work with young people. We transport 5,200 students each day back and forth to school, and I feel a need to know," said another participant, Carol Mansell of Ellsworth Township, transportation secretary for the Austintown schools. "I'm a 'why' person. Why this? Why that? Teach me this. Show me that," said Mansell, who also is a crime watch participant in her home community.
The 40-hour, 10-week program, similar to the civil defense corps efforts of the 1950s and '60s, is funded by a $7,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and participants pay no fees.
The training covers a broad range of topics, including firearms instruction, emergency communications systems, the laws of arrest, evidence and search and seizure, use of force, traffic and criminal investigations, narcotics law enforcement, neighborhood block watches, community policing, hostage negotiations and self-defense.
In an emergency
"In the event that we do have a mass emergency, we have to be ready to meet it," Sheriff Randall A. Wellington told the participants. Major emergencies, including terrorism, could occur along key cross-country interstate highway and rail links that pass through the Mahoning Valley, he said.
Academy participants include people from all over the county with backgrounds in law and child support enforcement, local government, education, fire protection, medicine, aviation, insurance, accounting, building maintenance, and electrical, heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems.
"You all have talents, skills, expertise that we can use here in law enforcement," Wellington said. "We want to tap those resources and use them in the case of a national emergency. The way things are nowadays, you never know when we're going to have to mobilize a lot of people."