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YPA loses 2011 funds

Young members of the community hoping to learn more about law enforcement practices and procedures won’t get that opportunity this summer.

The annual Youth Police Academy for the 2011 season has been suspended and officials are blaming the economy.

Hosted by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and with assistance from other area law enforcement agencies and Jefferson Davis Community College, the program is falling victim to tight budgets and a poor economy.

“For economic reasons we believe it is best to cancel the Youth Police Academy this year,” Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said. “Every department that helps with this project is working under tight budget constraints. Due to the economic situation throughout the area in businesses and in various departments and agencies, we believe this is the right thing to do.”

The Youth Police Academy depends on donations to make the weeklong event possible. Due to the decline in the economy, obtaining the funds has become increasingly difficult, Smith said.

“We have to pinch every penny that we can,” Smith said. “Although we don’t write a check for the event, it still costs money to be a part of the program. With fuel costs, the cost of personnel and other expenses, making time and personnel available for the program is a costly endeavor. We are already short-handed and we must cut where we can.”

Although the program will be suspended for the 2011 year, Smith said it is hoped the program will be held for youth in the area for 2012.

“We certainly hope to get the program back up and running next year,” Smith said. “We hope that by taking this year off that everyone involved will have an opportunity to reorganize and revamp some points of the program to make the Youth Police Academy bigger and better next year.”

In previous years, agencies and departments involved in the Youth Police Academy have included the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, the Brewton Police Department and Jefferson Davis Community College as main sponsors. It is co-sponsored by the Atmore Police Department, Flomaton Police Department and East Brewton Police Department. There are many instructors from agencies such as the Alabama State Troopers, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, Escambia County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office, and others that have been involved in the 10-year long tradition.

“We would also like to thank all those who have made contributions in the previous years,” Smith said. “We hope to have that support in 2012.”