The academy will offer sessions on emergency management and communications, as well as hands-on firearm training

To improve public relations and provide an inside look at local law enforcement, the Crook County Sheriff’s Office is launching a new citizen police academy.

The academy will be held over an approximately 10-week time period with weekly sessions scheduled at the Crook County Library each Monday evening. The sessions are intended to open the line of communication between citizens and law enforcement, and improve upon the relationship between the two.

“I think it is a good public relations issue,” said Undersheriff John Gautney. “You put the information out there — this is what we do and this is how we do it.”

The sessions cover a variety of topics including emergency management and communications, and offer optional opportunities to tour the 911 dispatch center and local jail, go on a patrol car ride-along, and even visit a shooting range.

“They actually get to participate in some hands-on training,” Gautney said.

In addition, the academy will feature guest speakers from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) team, and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Gautney believes that citizen academies are needed in any community. While serving with the Bend Police Department, he helped offer similar sessions, and has enjoyed a positive response to them from the public.

“Any citizen needs to be informed on what goes on within the departments that they fund,” he said. “I think it gives the public a better idea of why we do the things we do, how we go about doing it, and what’s behind the reason we do it.”

Gautney feels that the citizen academy will appeal to people because it gives them a sense of participation in the law enforcement process.

“They want to feel like they are a part of the organization,” he said. “They want to feel like they are learning what the police do. You may even get some people who are interested in going into law enforcement — come to it just to see what it’s about.”

Gautney stressed that the academy is not meant to promote any kind of agenda and is not intended to teach anyone how to be a deputy or recruit new staff.

“It will be basic, general information,” he said.

In order to attend the academy, a person must agree to a background check to ensure no participant is a convicted felon. Felons are not allowed to handle firearms and are prohibited by law to be near any law enforcement communications equipment.

Completion of the academy does not provide participants with any new privileges or qualifications. They will be given a certificate of completion, and will be invited to attend a graduation ceremony.

“It doesn’t give you any special rights or anything,” Gautney said.

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