Public safety comes to class

The 22nd graduating class of the Lompoc Citizen’s Police Academy accepted a lapel pin and certificate of completion Thursday after completing the 13-week program.

John Sakata/Staff

Rule No. 1 when talking to a criminal, Diana Southaphanh learned, is not to say please when giving an order.

Breaking the streak of politeness was one of the lessons that Southaphanh had to learn before she could receive a lapel pin and certificate of completion after graduating from the Lompoc Citizen’s Police Academy before a standing-room-only crowd of 70 at the Lompoc Police Department.

“You’re not supposed to be polite to someone breaking into a building,” explained Southaphanh after the ceremony, which included a handshake from Chief Timothy Dabney and Capt. Larry Ralston.

Recalling the time she role-played an officer called in to a break-in brought a smile to Southaphanh’s face.

She erred on the simulation. She told the criminal to “please” turn around. 

The certificate of completion won’t help land a future job in the same way as a educational degree would. But Southaphanh, and the rest of Class 22, walked away with a better understanding about what the local police 

department does and how it operates after spending three hours a day every Thursday for the last three months listening to department representatives.

At this class the community members got a comprehensive first-hand look at the department put in charge of maintaining safety in their city.

“(The graduates) become our eyes and ears and our ambassadors,” Dabney said.

Greater knowledge was gained on everyday crime: DUI stops, traffic rules, the criminal court system, rules on use of force by police, domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse cases, and other issues the police deal with.

“They have a better understanding of what we do,” Sgt. Ed Lardner said. 

New Lompoc resident Natalie Iden, who works as a kitchen supervisor at the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office, took the class to learn more about the city. 

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A new mother, she pulled some useful parenting lessons. She learned about the easy accessibility of drugs in the community, common to the area. Detective Susie Anaru spoke about child abuse cases.

“It allows you to know what people are capable of,” she said.

The lessons provided a valuable look at what happens every day.

The citizens who graduated from the academy mingled comfortably with police officers during the ceremony, telling jokes that they would normally to those they would only see in an emergency situation or a driving violation.

Southaphanh said she has applied for the police academy. She’ll hear from them in December. 

The class confirmed her desire to become an officer, but she said she knows it won’t be an easy task.

“I was non-knowledgeable,” she said.