BROOKSVILLE — The next Citizens Academy, offered by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, will begin on Sept. 12.
The hands-on course will extend for nine weeks, with two classes offered each Thursday, an afternoon session from 1 to 4 p.m., and an evening session from 6 to 9 p.m.
People taking part in Citizens Academy will get a wide range of exposure into specific areas of law enforcement topics, including traffic, emergency management communications, major crimes and cold cases, vice and narcotics, and much more. They will also receive frontline exposure to canine and mounted patrol units.
Michael Terry, the Sheriff’s Office’s community relations specialist, said Citizens Academy has been offered for the past 22 years. Its purpose is to give the public an opportunity to obtain hands-on knowledge about the various operations inside the Sheriff’s Office.
“We hold it twice a year, in the spring and in the summer,” Terry said. After completing the eight week course, a certificate of completion is awarded. Those who complete the course are then given an opportunity to observe a deputy on patrol during a ride-along.
Sheriff’s Office personnel give comprehensive presentations on various topics. They discuss in detail what they do on a daily basis and answer questions. Each presentation lasts from 45 minutes to an hour with a refreshment break each hour, provided by the law enforcement agency.
Speakers may include representatives from the Fifth Circuit State Attorney’s Office, a judge, the canine unit where demonstrations are performed, and a helicopter that lands in the parking lot, allowing citizens an inside peak at the controls.
Groups are taken up to the Emergency Communication Center, where they can witness 911 calls being dispatched to patrol units. “In addition, they have the opportunity to sit in with a call-taker for a shift and experience it first-hand,” Terry said.
Although the purpose of the Citizen’s Academy isn’t recruitment, there likely have been graduating citizens who were inspired to pursue careers in law enforcement. Many who hold positions, either paid or volunteer, have gone through the academy.
It is the purpose of the academy to give citizens a better understanding of what the Sheriff’s office actually does, not behind the scenes, but up front and personal. Each who participates will walk away with a better understanding.
Attendees also learn what forensics can and cannot do. They are given insight into cold case investigations, how many exist in the county, and what processes investigators must go through to potentially solve them.
Each demonstrator is skilled and well informed about his or her topic. But more than that, they are very personable and entertaining.
Registration for the next session is underway. Applicants must be 18 years or older or 16 if accompanied by an adult. Applications can be picked up at the Sheriff's Office and mailed or submitted online. All applicants are required to pass a basic background check.
For more information, or to fill out an application online, visit the Sheriff’s Office website at www.hernandosheriff.org/Programs/Academy.