“They can see what it’s like to experience those quick decisions”: Applications now open for WPD Citizens Academy

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 5:00 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - If you’ve ever wanted to see up close what a police officer does, you’ll get your chance. Starting in June, the Wilmington Police Department will host a Citizens Academy.

“We want to encourage residents of the city of Wilmington to take part in our Citizens Academy,” said Chief Donny Williams. “COVID has had us pinned up for the past year, and we are excited. We’re ready to hit the ground running and we want to see people in this building interacting with our officers and get to see first-hand what we do.”

Local news outlets were invited Tuesday to a media day at the Haynes/Lacewell Police and Fire Training Facility on Hurst St. News reporters and photographers were given a bird’s eye view of some of the training officers go through including a sophisticated simulator called VirTra. A virtual scenario of a crime scene allows you to see what an officer goes through in making a split-second decision.

The VirTra equipment is leased to the police department for $48,000 a year. Williams says the decision was made to lease versus purchase because technology changes so frequently.

The VirTra system, a sophisticated virtual simulator, is leased to the Wilmington Police...
The VirTra system, a sophisticated virtual simulator, is leased to the Wilmington Police Department for $48,000 a year(wect)

Williams says once citizens go through the virtual experience, they should have a better appreciation for why officers sometimes have to make difficult decisions.

“We try to avoid having to use force at all cost but unfortunately at times our officers are faced with a situation where that’s the only way that they can resolve it because at the end of the day, these men and women want to go home to their families,” Williams said.

The five-hour media day also included a police car simulator used to train officers on how to maneuver chases on busy streets in the city. That technology is called a Doron Simulator. The police department did purchase that equipment for $150,000.

Local journalists also watched a demonstration by the K-9 unit. There are two canine officers. Each police dog costs the city about $10,000 and takes three to four months to train.

If you are interested in attending a Citizens Academy at the Wilmington Police Department, fill out this document to apply. To be eligible to participate, applicants must submit a completed application and be at least 18 years old.

The interactive class will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Monday June 21st
  • Monday June 28th
  • Monday July 5th
  • Monday July 12th

The application period will close on June 16 at 9 p.m. If you have any questions regarding the Citizens Police Academy or application process, email Crime Prevention Specialist Letecia Holiday at

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