As part of an effort to enhance communication and transparency, the New Jersey State Police will hold a special program that kicks off next week.

The State Police Citizens Academy, which will meet weekly from Oct. 17 through Dec. 5, will give participants a behind-the-scenes look at how the NJSP uses technology and training to prevent, investigate and solve crime.

“We are more than just a Highway Patrol. We are a full-service state police department which has over 120 different specialized units,” said New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Pat Callahan.

He said one goal of the academy is to take a cross-section of people from different communities “and explain the State Police and our role in the State of New Jersey to them, so they come away almost as ambassadors for the State Police.”

The colonial said participants will learn “how we do investigations, what the day in the life of a road trooper is, what goes on at our Fusion Center and our labs, and try to just give them a true sense of the New Jersey State Police.”

Callahan said law enforcement has a thousand positive interactions a day, but usually those aren’t the stories that make it onto the news — so if the community gets a chance to meet NJSP troopers who are also Sunday School teachers, little league coaches, mothers and fathers, “I think it’ll go a long way in building that trust we so often talk about.

"It’s critical in that two-way street of us serving the public and the public helping us do our job," he said.

He stressed its vitally important for the State Police to create bonds of trust with communities across New Jersey.

“With social media, an incident in Sacramento, California can spark something right here in Trenton, so to have relationships established, I think it’s huge and it’s critical," Callahan said. "If we don’t trust each other, we’re not going to be able to help one another out.”

He said many people don’t realize the State Police has a wide range of elite teams that include “aviation to canine to a SWAT team to homicide investigators to cyber crime. I mean, it is an extremely diverse mission that we have.”

He said the ultimate goal of the academy is to promote communication, trust and"‘to foster just an increased awareness about what we do, and maybe create an appreciation for a job that’s a critical one.”

A cross section of about two dozen people have been invited to participate in the first Citizens Academy class, including clergy, professors and members of the media, and more classes are being planned for next spring and summer.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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