Peter and Paula Conover wanted to learn more about the place they've lived for barely a month.
The transplants from Connecticut were among more than 20 residents getting a behind-the-scenes view of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office on Sept. 13 at the first class of the 10-week Citizens Law Enforcement Academy.
The semi-annual course is free and open to all county residents 18 and older.
"We found it on the Web site a few months before we moved," Peter Conover said, adding that the couple had been involved with the police department in Manchester, Conn., which offered a similar course a few years ago. "We were interested in it down here. We thought it'd give us a chance to get out in the community and maybe meet some new people and maybe get a ride through the county."
The course runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. each Thursday for 10 weeks.
Participants will gain insight into the everyday operations of the sheriff's office through tours of the 911 center, the Columbia County Detention Center and the Columbia County Justice Center and Courthouse Annex in Evans and through demonstrations from the sheriff's office canine unit, Special Response Team and crime scene technician. The county's on-call magistrate judge also will explain the court process.
"They get an understanding of what the deputies out there on patrol are doing, an understanding of basically behind-the-scenes and that there is more to the sheriff's office than just the patrol cars," said Deputy Kara McGahee, who oversees the academy through the sheriff's office Community Services Division.
Each week, participants will get presentations, demonstrations or tours from sheriff's office and Columbia County leaders. Members of the academy's 15th class learned about the Community Services Division and watched demonstration from Deputy Scott Zimmerman and his canine partner, Boz, as the Belgian Malinois found a hidden package of drug material in the classroom.
One of the most popular classes involves firearms training and time on the practice range with a coach and a sheriff's-office-issued handgun.
Week nine's self-defense course also is popular with class participants, McGahee said.
The academy is held in the fall and the spring.
McGahee is already accepting registration for the spring class, set to begin in March, and recommends anyone interested to go ahead and sign up. Classes are usually limited to 20 people.
The quickest way to register, McGahee said, is to download an application from the sheriff's office Web site at www.columbiacountyso.org. Fill it out and mail it in to the address provided.
For more information, contact McGahee at (706) 541-3905 or email@example.com.
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