Last year I had an interesting opportunity. One I never really expected to have. I got to be a cop — kind of.

As part of my job here at the Morning Sun, I enrolled in the Pittsburg Police Department Citizens’ Academy last spring. I attended classes during the 10-week program and wrote about my experiences. At first I was nervous, but I ended up having a great time.

While I did get to shoot guns at the range and drive a police cruiser through an obstacle course — two very enjoyable experiences — those weren’t the only times worth going. The classes were always interesting and it seemed like they flew by. Myself and others in the academy always had questions.

I learned a lot about crime in Pittsburg and about being a police officer in Pittsburg. I learned that it is not like Law and Order — but also that it is. The cases aren’t as simple as they are in Law and Order, and the job isn’t as glamorous, but like the characters of Law and Order, the officers I connected with at PPD care deeply about citizens, victims and the law.

Now PPD is taking applications for the next round of the Citizens’ Academy. This will be the department’s 11th year putting on the program.

I would highly encourage anyone who is interested in law enforcement — and even those who aren’t if they live in Pittsburg — to apply for the academy. Classes are in the evenings and an extra activities are usually on Saturday mornings. It’s a relatively easy schedule to keep, and you get to shoot guns, drive a cop car and even work a mock crime scene.

While the program offers a wealth of knowledge to the participants, it also benefits the department. Education may be the focus, but understanding is the goal. The Citizens’ Academy helps both officers and citizens make connects, learn how to handle certain situations and be more comfortable around each other.

At a time when relations with police aren’t always on steady ground, I applaud the officers who take part in the academy for traveling the path of transparency.

I believe this program benefits the community and want to see it continue. So if you are even remotely interested, please get more information — or an application — online at www.pittks.org, or at the Beard-Shanks Law Enforcement Center.

At the very least, you’ll get to shoot and drive fast, so why not take a chance.

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.