WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) — The Burke County Sheriff’s Office Academy is a way for Burke County deputies to get out of their comfort zone with other law enforcement agencies and to welcome people in their space. The 12-week the academy provides insight into the policies, procedures, laws, guidelines, responsibilities, demands, and reasoning that shape today’s law enforcement organizations.
Enforcing the law in today’s age is not an easy task. The goal of the citizens’ police academy is to give citizens a better understanding of what goes on internally in their local law enforcement agency.
“A doctor can make a mistake, a teacher can make a mistake, and it’s not a big deal,” explained Sheriff Alfonzo Williams. “A police officer makes a mistake, and they are taking someone’s constitutional authority, and it’s different.”
For 12 weeks, 30 burke county citizens will be involved in training sessions to see why deputies make the decisions they make.
“In 2019, we are all expecting video,” said Williams. “Every officer in our agency wears a body camera; citizens come to expect that, but that’s not the whole story.”
One participant told NewsChannel 6 reporter Devin Johnson, the academy shows how serious the sheriff’s office commitment is to the community.
“The more people you get involved, I feel like it more bases we get to know each other,” said Mickey Stewart. “Our neighbor, our person down the street, another neighborhood where we all can work together to stop some of the bad stuff that goes on.
Stewart says he and the other participants are not here to be police officers. But to become ambassadors for law enforcement.
“Outside, we said what we saw whatever the case might be,” explained Stewart. “But just the understanding they are not the enemy, they are here to help, serve, and protect us.”
Sheriff Williams says sometimes the media doesn’t show the whole story. The participants will learn juvenile law, constitutional law, state law, policy and procedures, and state certification standards.
“Those are five principles that an officer might have to deploy within three seconds to decide whether they are going to take a life,” said Williams.
Graduation is on December 19th. Graduates from the citizens’ police academy are not considered trained in any of the operations of the sheriff’s office, but through education, they can formulate responsible conclusions concerning police activity.
Photojournalist: Will Baker