New program aims to build bridges between law enforcement, community

New program builds bridges between law enforcement and community

MEDFORD, Mass. — Interacting with law enforcement can be intimidating for anyone, but for a person with developmental disabilities, it can be an even scarier experience.

The Middlesex County Sheriff’s office is now offering a Special Citizen’s Academy to help build a bridge between law enforcement and the community.

“We speak about our SWAT unit.  We speak out about our K9s. We speak about Internet safety and scams. So, it really isn’t a much different program than it is for everyone else. It’s just tailored for these folks in a special way,” explained Sheriff Peter Koutoujian.

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Participants get to see a live demonstration with the K9s, explore special vehicles, and ask questions to law enforcement personnel.

“I just like to learn about first aid, CPR stuff, how to protect and keep our schools safe right now, and all that,” said Ryan Poisson, one of the cadets.

Koutoujian came up with the idea after thinking about how they offered similar programs to young people and adults. “The ability to empower or impact these special citizens and their families is really special,” he said.

Because it has become common for people to distrust law enforcement, a program like this builds bridges, according to Pamela McNulty of the Valley Collaborative in Billerica. “They would know and feel safe to go to a police officer if anything is going on with themselves, or at home, if they had any issues, and they could go to a police officer or somebody with a badge and say I need help,” she added.

The Special Citizens Academy is a four-week long program. The current group of cadets will graduate on May 23rd.

Additional sessions are being planned. More information on those can be obtained from the Middlesex County Sheriff's office.