Citizen’s Academy Part I


Posts about real school tragedy, crime, and/or events can be upsetting.

Robin Lyons BlogBLOG POST #209: Are you interested in how your law enforcement functions? Are you a mystery, suspense, or thriller writer who’d like to know about law enforcement? This post may be of particular interest to you.

Most law enforcement agencies have a Citizen’s Academy. The one through my local sheriff department was a free sixteen-week course held one evening each week, plus one ride-along with a deputy.

Here’s what my course entailed and some of my notes:

  • Hiring process – Could you pass a background check? Possible not. They look at moving violations, at-fault vehicle accidents, convictions of any type…among many other considerations including dependability with past employers, job-hopping, quitting without notice, judgment, etc.
  • Training
  • Communications tour (dispatch center) – There’s a high rate of turnover in this department. Typical shifts are from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
  • Jail tour – This tour was unnerving. The inmates were in three large common areas separated by gang affiliations and/or how they got along with others. They watched us as we watched them. There were also isolation cells—all occupied.
  • Patrol functions
  • Calls for service
  • Laws of arrest
  • Search and seizure
  • K-9 presentation and demonstration
  • Narcotics
  • Use of force
  • SWAT presentation
  • Gangs
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Detectives presentation
  • Crisis negotiations
  • Office of Emergency Services presentation
  • Internet safety
  • Boat patrol and dive team – Our dive teams mostly make recoveries.
  • Rubicon patrol (4×4 trail in National Forest)
  • Property and evidence
  • Traffic stops (roll-play)

Have you ever wondered how officers function with all the stuff hanging off their duty belt? I have. The belt alone typically weighs 24 pounds! And the vest is another 3-4 pounds.

Before taking the course: Whenever I saw a vehicle pulled over by a patrol car—often two or three patrol cars for one citizen’s vehicle—I wondered why so many officers needed to respond. After taking the course: I understood. A single vehicle may have 2, 3, or even 4 hooligans in it, whereas patrol cars have one officer per vehicle.

The ride-along was quite interesting. I rode with a K-9 unit—a Belgian Malinois and very intimidating. We went on a call to a residence reportedly being broken into—I had to stay in the car. We went to a house where a vehicle matching the description of a stolen vehicle in the driveway had stolen license plates on it. The dog was used to smell around inside the car. And an arrest was made, another officer transported the person, we met them at the intake area. The person was super high on drugs, it was so sad.

There was so much more about this fantastic experience, but keeping in my preference to keep posts short, I’ll share more in a future post.

Worth Mentioning: If you have attended a similar program, it might be time to attend again. Things change, or like in my county, we have a new sheriff department facility. And they’ve added a morgue. Once the morgue is up and running, I’ll sign up for the course again.

What are your thoughts about the Citizen’s Academy? Join the conversation on the website. We talk about the sensitive subject of crimes occurring at or connected to schools.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Thanks for reading!


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