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Davis, California

Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Yolo County District Attorney’s Office Citizen’s Academy program accepting applications

The Citizen’s Academy seeks to reduce tension between communities and law enforcement through education

The Yolo County District Attorney announced in a press release that they are accepting applications to join the annual Citizen’s Academy program, which will be virtual this year. Along with educating the public, the goal of the eight-week program is to improve the relationship between communities in Yolo County and the criminal justice system.

Applicants must be residents of Yolo County and at least 18 years old. Participants will meet every Thursday from April 15 to June 3, from 6-8:30 p.m. 

The press release details that some topics the Citizen’s Academy will cover include victim services and the roles of law enforcement. Sponsored by the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, the Citizen’s Academy coordinates with many police departments, including the Davis Police Department and the UC Davis Police Department.

Davis Assistant City Manager and staff liaison for the Davis Police Accountability Commission Kelly Stachowicz explained how there is often tension in the community between law enforcement and any particular group, making conversation necessary. 

“What we always want in the community is informed discussion,” Stachowicz said.

The Citizen’s Academy allows communities to participate in mutual learning about the criminal justice system. Stachowicz added that when people have better information, it yields better community conversations and discussions.

On June 6, 2020, a group of Davis community members stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and marched to the Davis Police Station. 

Leslie Ortiz, a second-year political science student at UC Davis, has noticed tension between police officers and students, including her peers, during her time on campus. For example, she noticed that her friends often had harsh comments when they saw a police officer. 

Some students do not want to contact the police nor rely on law enforcement, according to Ortiz.

“Let’s say if an emergency happens—I feel like people have been not wanting to call the police because of the fear and their portrayal through social media and through the news,” Ortiz said.

Additionally, Ortiz said that the events in 2020 that drove widespread BLM protests, including the death of George Floyd and videos of police officers posted online, have influenced the attitudes of many students. 

Stachowicz described that Davis officials seek to protect the citizens’ right to protest. 

“Our first approach is ensuring that people’s first amendment rights are protected,” Stachowicz said.

As a college student and aspiring lawyer, Ortiz feels that police are needed to ensure the safety of the citizens, but there should be a change in law enforcement and how officers handle certain situations. 

Ortiz commented that the Citizen’s Academy could lead to positive changes regarding policing in Yolo County. 

“The program can empower law enforcement to change,” Ortiz said. “I really feel like if all that negativity goes away and the community supports law enforcement, tension could go away.”

In the weekly schedule of the Citizen’s Academy, Yolo County police chiefs and sheriffs will speak to participants during the program.

Stachowicz explained that this could potentially improve communication between the criminal justice system and the citizens of Yolo County.

“If people are interested in learning about what a police department actually does, have questions about it, or have concerns about it, the academy may be a good opportunity to educate themselves,” Stachowicz said.

To enroll, go to www.yoloda.org for more information or contact Wendy Wilcox by email at wendy.wilcox@yolocounty.org or by phone at (530) 666-8356. 

 Written by: Ellie Lee — city@theaggie.org


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