Buckhead Officer Tyler Thomas, left, and Wayne Robinson.
Buckhead Officer Tyler Thomas, left, and Wayne Robinson.

Wayne Robinson started out looking for a CPR training course, but he found Atlanta’s citizen’s fire academy instead.

“I was searching around for CPR training, realizing I hadn’t had any since I was in the military years ago,” Robinson said. “I saw the fire/rescue academy program and it was very interesting learning about how firemen work.”

He completed the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Citizens Fire Academy during the summer of 2014. Then he enrolled in the Citizen’s Police Academy and graduated in December 2014. Now, he regularly rides along with Atlanta Zone 2 police officers.

He admires the officers he works with.

“Police work is really a calling,” he said. “It’s not something you do expecting to make a lot of money, but it’s a strong profession.”

The citizen’s academy program is intended to give residents such as Robinson an introduction to their cities’ police and fire departments. Many cities offer similar programs, said Atlanta police Lt. David Villaroel, who recently took over the APD citizen’s academy program.

The academies serve both residents and the police, Villaroel said.

“When they’re out, or when they graduate, they are more informed and can spread their experience through the community and see for themselves how we function,” Villaroel said. “That’s basically what it is for us: help in bridging the gap between police and citizens out there.”

Atlanta’s citizen’s academy is not intended to train people to become police officrs, but merely to provide insight into the internal workings of the department, Villaroel said. But in Robinson’s case, he keeps coming back to ride along with sworn officers.

“Here’s your Kevlar vest,” Robinson said he’s told by officers he accompanies. “And you go out there and they answer calls.”

Robinson said he rides along with Zone 2 officers about every two weeks. “They would welcome me every day I suppose,” he said. “It’s much like a fraternity, and they encourage me to come back as much as I can. They like having somebody to talk to in the car.”

He likes to patrol in the Buckhead Zone because he lives there, he said. “I like the area I live in, so I tend to go with the same officer, Tyler Thomas, who’s like a buddy.”

When he shows up for roll call, Robinson said the officers enjoy his presence. They’ve gotten to know each other and they’re all very friendly and welcoming.

He said he’s been to calls about burglaries and felony armed robberies. He remembers watching kids breaking in cars and running. “Three cars and a helicopter set up a perimeter on the north side of Lenox Square,” he said. He said he’s watched firsthand as officers have taken guns off people.

Once, he recalls, some people wouldn’t leave a hotel. “I and another officer went inside with flashlights,” he said. “They lived in squalor.”

One of the residents in the hotel said he had bacterial meningitis, Robinson said. “So Grady came and made me and all the officers put on rubber gloves and wait until Grady screened them for risk of being contagious,” he said. “They weren’t, but that all of those specialized services can be brought together quickly should be reassuring to the community.”

The most amazing aspect to police work in Buckhead, Robinson said, is the ability to coordinate services. Zone 2 has 14 police cars, but officers can easily call in a helicopter, he said. He called the coordination of services an “invisible net” of skills that brings cars and officers together at the scene of a crime.

“It’s amazing how fast they can pool their resources in an emergency,” Robinson said. “It’s just amazing to me how quickly they can wrap that together.”

Robinson said as a retired person, he still had a lot of energy.

“I’m physically fit and active, and I‘d like to continue to contribute to public safety in some way,” he said.

So, he offered himself to the police department to help out after he completed both the citizen’s academies.