David Brill learned a few things about law enforcement while attending courses designed to give residents a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
"They're grossly underpaid," the Martinez resident said. "It's a very dangerous job."
The Citizens Law Enforcement Academy started Sept. 11, and its 16 students will graduate Thursday.
Participants have learned about each aspect of the sheriff's office, including the Special Response Team, criminal investigation, self-defense and firearm safety and training. The group also toured the 911 center, the Columbia County Detention Center and the Columbia County Justice Center and Courthouse Annex.
"It's an overview of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office," said sheriff's Lt. Patricia Champion, who leads the program. "Each division within the sheriff's office comes in and talks to our citizens about what we do here."
Brill, who is retired from the Army, said most people don't realize that law enforcement can be accessible and diverse.
"It's not just chasing people," he said. "It's nothing like they show on TV."
The group meets from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursdays for 10 weeks. Courses are held in the fall and spring.
"It's kind of to open our doors to the citizens and let them see what we do and how we do things," Champion said.
"The goal of it is to build a rapport between the sheriff's office and our community."
Eddie Writer, who serves on West Lake subdivision's board of directors, said he wanted to add a notice about the academy in the neighborhood's newsletter.
"I thought if we were going to highlight it, I should at least do the class first, and see what it's like," he said.
Though his favorite class involved the criminal investigation division, Writer said he also was interested in seeing how the sheriff's office works.
"It's not really that the class has taught me anything extra that I haven't known," he said.
"It's more of a working knowledge of what goes on around here."
The next round of classes will start in March. The program is free and open to county residents ages 18 and older.
Those interested can download an application by clicking on the Community Services Division link on the sheriff's office Web site at www.columbiacountyso.org, or call (706) 541-2856 for more information.
"We do operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and classes fill up quickly," Champion said.
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