Police Academy Pitt: Staff, Faculty and Students on Patrol

While completing a degree in administration of justice, Camille Burgess, associate director of student services and MBA programs at Pitt Business, worked as an intern with the Pitt Police Department

“It completely changed my attitude about police and the work they do,” said Burgess.

That internship was in 2012; since then, Burgess noted the policing environment has changed—which is why she applied to be part of Pitt’s new Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA) program. “I wanted a better understanding of their process,” she said. 

Registration for the spring Citizens Police Academy is now open! This course will be offered to any University of Pittsburgh student, staff or faculty member.

The class is limited to 20 participants and will be held at the police headquarters, 3212 Forbes Avenue. All participants must pass a background check.

Everyone who completes the course will receive a certificate. To apply, visit the Pitt Police website and register by following information in the "Citizens Police Academy" highlight.

Rules of procedure

The eight-week course takes place at the Pitt Police Department headquarters at the Jerome Cochran Public Safety Building and gives participants the opportunity to work with and learn from University police officers. “Our hope is that graduates of the CPA become more aware of and better informed about how the police department operates,” said Officer Mallory Jarzynka.

The program is a series of instructional classes and practical exercises that begins with introductions and an overview of department structure before exploring criminal law and rules of procedure. Participants learned about search and seizure, warrants and probable cause.

As the course progressed, class topics covered domestic violence and sexual assault, traffic violations and report writing. Each session featured a dedicated classroom instruction followed by a debrief, which allowed students to delve deeper into topics with instructors.

“I really enjoyed the Q&A sessions. You not only get the answers you were looking for, but also to hear another person’s perspective on a situation,” said Randy Schmotzer, assistant manager of special event services in the Office of Facilities Management. The academy was a refresher for Schmotzer, who previously attended a county Police Academy part time.

Hands-on experience

Two sessions included hands-on experience, one of which was a trip to a range to cover safe handling of firearms. And before the academy’s graduation ceremony, its penultimate class session broke the group of 15 students into groups for role-play with officers.

One station featured Officers Ryan Dinizio and Adam Dimit acting as underage post-game revelers creating a disturbance. In another, Detectives Megan Galla and Ed Carmack role-played a couple involved in a potential domestic assault call.

Galla and Carmack worked to make their role-play nuanced. They challenged expectations by making Galla the primary aggressor. “I liked talking to the couple, learning to ask the right questions to get at the truth, understanding the bigger picture,” Burgess said of this scenario.

In the headquarters parking lot, students learned to operate the siren, strobe and spotlights of a patrol car before investigating Officer Kyra Foley, who role-played the driver students stopped. Across from them, another group donned “drunk goggles,” which simulate intoxication complete with impairment of sight, equilibrium and reaction time, attempting to recite instructions and wobble through a sobriety test.

Part of the team

CPA participants reported that they weren’t just becoming more informed about the duties of a Pitt Police officer; Burgess said she appreciated the officers’ responses and willingness to share personal experiences. Schmotzer thought he would be able to apply course knowledge in his own role at the University, particularly from a session about getting information and how to write reports.

Burgess and Schmotzer shared only one recommendation for improvement. “The classes could be longer. There were some nights that there were so many great questions we didn’t have time to finish the curriculum for that night,” said Schmotzer, adding that the eight weeks flew by.

Schmotzer also commended the officers who facilitated the course—many of whom were not trained as instructors. “Every officer from patrol through the ranks up to the chief were phenomenal. Not one officer ‘talked down’ to us or made us feel that we were a bother. It was the complete opposite. The treated us as if we were part of the team.”

  • Officer Brooke Riley (center) teaches Tim Mizerak, data coordinator in housing administration, (left) and Elena Russin, learning space engineer in the University Center for Teaching and Learning (right) how to administer a sobriety test on Pamela Rikstad, administrative manager at the Swanson School of Engineering (far left, in goggles). (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Camille Burgess (left), associate director of student services and MBA programs at Pitt Business, conferred with Officer Mallory Jarzynka (right), as Dispatcher Patrick Mignogna (center) role-played a suspected thief. Burgess enjoyed both the courses and the roleplay session: “It allows us to appreciate them as people who care about supporting their fellow humans, and they put their lives on the line to be able to do that.” (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • From left, Amy Vaught, Outside the Classroom Curriculum coordinator; junior student Gabrielle Alberty; and Brian Beighley, assistant director of financial aid in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, listened as Officer Adam Dimit explained the nuances involved with response and citation. “One officer might take a lead in a certain situation, but we always support, listen to and respect each other,” Dimit told the them. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Detectives Megan Galla and Ed Carmack roleplayed a couple involved in a domestic dispute. Here, they debriefed following the scenario, explaining that officers might approach such a situation differently from others by waiting for back up or approaching from a distance. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Officer Kyra Foley taught Randy Schmotzer, assistant manager of special event services in the Office of Facilities Management; senior student Alexandra Dziak; and Brian Vallor, also from facilities management, how to operate the siren, strobe and spotlights on a patrol car, as well as approach a stopped vehicle. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Fall 2019 class of the inaugural University of Pittsburgh Citizens Police Academy. Faculty, staff and student participants are wearing beige polos and Pitt Police Department academy instructors are in blue. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)