SCSO holds sixth Citizens Sheriff’s Academy course

Published 1:22 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office has started the Fall 2015 Citizens Sheriff's Academy, a 12-week course in which more than 20 participants will learn about the law enforcement practices and procedures of the SCSO. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego addresses participants of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office’s Fall 2015 Citizens Sheriff’s Academy, a 12-week course in which more than 20 participants will learn about the law enforcement practices and procedures of the SCSO. (Reporter Photo/Emily Sparacino)


COLUMBIANA – One of the most common statements Lt. Clay Hammac and his colleagues at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office hear from people is “I had no idea how much the Sheriff’s Office did.”

Such feedback only adds fuel to the SCSO’s mission to maintain its transparency with the public by giving Shelby County residents opportunities to learn more about the agency’s daily operations and responsibilities in law enforcement.

For the next 10 weeks, the SCSO will continue leading 23 participants through the Fall 2015 Citizens Sheriff’s Academy, a 12-week program designed to educate residents about the SCSO and its law enforcement practices and procedures.

“People will come out of here with a thorough understanding of how the Sheriff’s Office operates,” class coordinator Don Radtke said. “It’s an action-packed 12 weeks. It’s incredible.”

The course is presented in a classroom setting on Thursday nights at the SCSO Training Center in Columbiana.

Each 12-week session is limited to about 24 participants, who must at least 18 years old or older and live or work in Shelby County.

Participants learn about criminal investigations, laws and the court system, patrol functions, the drug task force, the Sheriff’s Office’s tactical response unit and other special units.

During the first class of the current session Sept. 10, Hammac talked about the organization of the SCSO, including its uniform, administration, criminal investigations and corrections divisions, along with recruitment, selection and training of deputies.

Upcoming classes will focus on use of force in today’s society; a “typical” day in law enforcement; deputy safety and survival training; communications and records; firearms safety; laws and the court system; criminal investigations with real, now-closed local cases; and other relevant topics.

The CSA isn’t limited to classroom learning, though. Participants also have opportunities to tour the Shelby County Jail, complete a ride-along on patrol with a deputy sheriff and receive basic firearms safety training on the SCSO firearms range.

The fall CSA will end with graduation on Dec. 3.

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego said forming the CSA was one of his and former Sheriff Chris Curry’s goals for Curry’s tenure.

“It was on our original list,” said Samaniego, who served as Curry’s chief deputy, to participants. “Our philosophy is, we are service providers, and you are consumers. We want you to be a part of us. I really appreciate your giving your time to your community because everything you learn here you’ll take back.”

Others instrumental in the formation of the program include Hammac, Lt. Russell Bedsole, Dr. Dick Dormouth and Mike Gibbs.

Samaniego said he also received feedback from residents while campaigning for sheriff in 2013 regarding the Sheriff’s Office maintaining open communications and transparency with the people it serves.

“The citizens of Shelby County want to be involved, and they want a relationship with the Sheriff’s Office,” Samaniego said.

Radtke, an airline pilot and SCSO volunteer, was in the first CSA class and has been volunteering with the program with Lt. Dennis Blackerby.

“Deputies teach this,” Radtke said. “They do that on their own time.”

Hammac echoed Radtke’s point on the importance of volunteers, noting the SCSO “could not successfully do this” without their help.

Participation rates in the CSA since it started have been high, sometimes necessitating a waiting list for the sessions, Radtke said.

“The interest and response to the class has been overwhelming,” Radtke said.

Past CSA participants include local mayors, city officials, business leaders and school officials, Hammac said.

“This is for every citizen in Shelby County,” he said. “We genuinely want you, the citizens of our county, to take ownership of this agency.”