Bexar County Sheriff's Citizens Academy Gets Underway

By Morgan Montalvo

WOAI News

Community  outreach by law enforcement in Bexar County took a major step forward  with last night's launching of the first-ever Sheriff's Citizens  Academy, 1200  WOAI news reports.

The  13-week course offers area residents a detailed overview of how the  Sheriff's Office operates, from both peace officer and corrections  officer perspectives. Students attend the academy from 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays at the Sheriff's Academy and Training Center on Gillette Avenue, near Palo Alto College. 

 Establishing a Citizens Academy has been a priority for Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar.

"Community  policing is something I've done my whole career," said Salazar who,  before his election as sheriff, served as a San Antonio police sergeant.  "When I was with SAPD very early in my career I was a community policing officer, and I helped out extensively with  the Citizens Police Academy there.  So when I saw that that was a need here, I knew it would work because I've done it before," he said. 

The  inaugural class convened at full capacity, 36 students, including many  who have completed similar programs elsewhere. Among the topics covered  are: jurisdiction and police powers; investigations and evidence handling; criminal and civil law; community outreach;  special programs; administration; and jail operations.

Betty Hernandez, who has attended the SAPD citizens course, wants to know more about peace officer training. 

"I  thought it would be interesting to know the sheriff's side now," said  Hernandez. "It will be interesting to see if the policies and procedures  they follow are the same as SAPD, or a little bit different."

For  Sophia Reyna, crime scene investigation and evidence collection methods  were factors in her decision to enroll in the course.

"It's  good to at least know some of the details about why they do what they  do, and for us to understand," Reyna said. "I'm impressed; they're  really going into details about what the Sheriff's Department does."

Salazar  said Sheriff's Citizens Academy graduates can assist his deputies in a  number of ways, from helping to quickly share important information with  their neighbors to serving as the nucleus for a county-wide Cellular On Patrol program, another of his priorities."

Looking  at the size of this crowd, I'd say it's a resounding success," Salazar  said after introducing his leadership team and Citizens Academy  instructors to the students. "We've already got ten people that are signed up for the next class. We're getting a high  demand for it, and I'm happy."    

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