Police department looks for few good volunteers

How to join

Applications are being accepted online at Victoriatx.org. Applicants must pass a criminal background check before being accepted into the program and be 18 or older to apply. For more information about the program call the Crime Prevention Unit at 361-485-3808.

Omar Garcia said most children consider role models such as Batman and Superman to be their heroes.

Not him.

"Officers were mine," he said, recalling law stories his neighbor, a deputy with the Victoria County Sheriff's Office, shared with him about the job. "I wanted to help people. I knew law enforcement was a place I could do that."

After turning 18, the Victoria East High School student enrolled in the city's Civilian Police Academy, kick-starting his future career in patrol.

The Victoria Police Department is inviting residents interested in law enforcement to participate in its 2014 civilian academy. The 11-week program is free and open to those age 18 and older.

Classes, which typically will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, teach the students about various law enforcement tactics, ranging from gang and hostage negotiations to SWAT and K-9 demonstrations. The course ends with weapons safety and handling and a trip to the Victoria Police Department firearms range.

"They will be taught how to use pistols and shotguns," said Crime Prevention Unit officer John Turner. "If time permits, they may be shown other weapons that the police department uses."

Garcia said his most memorable course was a scenario-based class in which he responded to a mock domestic disturbance call.

"I learned going to a domestic call is one thing that gets a lot of officers killed," he said. "It can be very dangerous."

During the scenario, Garcia was attacked from the back and shot in the head.

"The classes really get you thinking," he said.

Diana Rhodes, 72, of Nursery, graduated from the program in spring 1997 and enjoys most holding different offices in the alumni association.

The classes, she said, helped her appreciate the dedication officers have to their line of work and how they put their lives on the line "every time they put on that uniform."

Like Garcia and Rhodes, graduates will be invited to join the Academy's Alumni Association, a nonprofit volunteer group.

"They do a lot of good work throughout the community," Turner said, such as "assisting police with directing traffic, parking cars and manning barricades at events like Bootfest."

Alumni also can assist with child fingerprinting, Help Eliminate Auto Theft registration and VIN etching and the National Night Out kickoff party and neighborhood cleanups.

"I want to be out there on the field," Garcia said. "I want to be out there on the streets making a difference."