News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Tuesday was night one of the Citizens Police Academy with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. Fifteen people began the class and will spend the next 12 weeks learning the ins and outs of every division.
The first group to go through the class was handpicked by the commission, the mayor, the chamber and the board of education. The group includes a student, a realtor, neighborhood association presidents and former law enforcement officers, all of whom are considered to be leaders within the community.
"In the past, there's been segments of the community that have been left out or not had any type of involvement with the Sheriff's Office," said Brian Tucker, a firefighter, reserve police officer and business owner in Richmond County who was picked to represent District 8.
Sheriff Richard Roundtree says the issue Tucker brought up is something he's noticed for years. He says he's hoping the new Citizens Police Academy can help change that fact.
"This is one of the first things I said I wanted to do to get the people back involved in this office, and for it to come, it's a very proud day for us," Roundtree said.
Tucker and 14 others went through the first class.
"This Sheriff's Office belongs to the people, and they need to know it belongs to them," Roundtree said. "So I wanted to give it back to them, and by doing that, I wanted to bring them in and say, there are no secrets, this is your office."
On Tuesday night, they loaded up a bus to tour all the precincts and the law enforcement center.
"We're not gonna hold anything back," Roundtree said. "We're gonna show them some of the basic law enforcement functions that our deputies go through."
They'll have classes on the operations and history of the Sheriff's Office, but it's in the field where Roundtree says they'll learn the most.
"They're gonna have a ride along, we're gonna do a range day we're gonna let them experience some of the police driving and the shooting tactics that officers learn," he said.
It's all to get a better understanding of what goes on inside the RCSO.
"When they see us out in the community, when they call the police, then they will have a better understanding of why we do what we do," said Capt. Wendy George with the Community Service Division.
"We want them to see both sides of it, we don't want them to see just a person in a patrol car that pulls up, we want them to see a human being," Roundtree said.
Thirteen members of the first group will also make up the Citizens Advisory board. They'll give input to the Sheriff's Office to help them work better within their communities.
Every class after this is open to the public. They are hoping to graduate four academy classes a year.
The classes are free to the community. If you are interested in getting more information or signing up, call Veronica Freeman with the Community Services Division at (706) 261-0436.