Participants in the 10-week program praised what they learned about the department

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The first graduating class of the Crook County Sheriff's Office's citizen's academy poses for a photo.

The Crook County Sheriff’s Office graduated its first citizen’s academy class this past week and the program has drawn rave reviews from its participants.

“Every person should attend that class,” said Mike O’Herron. “It was amazing.”

The intent behind the academy was to improve public relations and provide residents an inside look at local law enforcement. The 17-person course took place over a 10-week period during which participants engaged in a variety of lessons and activities.

“I did it because I have an interest in the community, particularly the challenges our sheriff's office faces,” said graduate Craig Brookhart. “I thought it would be really good to see things that go on in their department.”

The academy didn’t disappoint. Both O’Herron and Brookhart came away with not only a wealth of information on the sheriff’s office, but a deepened appreciation for what its personnel do.

“I was surprised at how much training on so many different things a deputy or officer needs,” O’Herron said. “They have to make split-second decisions when they approach a stopped vehicle. They are processing everything they see.”

Academy participants took courses on seemingly every facet of the sheriff’s office. Among the topics covered were criminal investigations, DUII, domestic violence, emergency management, road and marine patrol, the K9 program, and search and rescue.

“We did everything,” Brookhart remarked. “We went through everything from budget to their day-to-day challenges and routines.”

“It gave me a whole lot more knowledge – getting to learn what they have to do,” added participant Brad Peterson. “Knowledge is power.”

Along with the coursework, the academy provided participants hands-on training with a trip to the firing range as well as a session with the MILO interactive use-of-force training system.

“They have this big screen, and it’s a simulation of a real-world situation,” Brookhart said of the MILO session. He went on to explain that each person is armed with a pretend firearm and stood in front of the screen playing a video of a traffic stop.

“Depending on what you say, the guys on the screen can react in different ways,” Brookhart continued. “It really gets your hair standing up as you go through the different scenarios and watching it all develop.” O’Herron recalled that after the session he was quizzed on what happened during. What happened? How many shots were fired? How many did you fire?

The visit to the shooting range resonated with the group and gave participants a chance to interact with and get to know the deputies they depend on.

“They are all good people,” Peterson said.

Upon graduation, O’Herron believes every participant came away with a new appreciation for the work the sheriff’s office does every day. He would get no argument from Peterson or Brookhart.

“Those guys are really dedicated above and beyond their pay,” Brookhart said. “That is the most striking thing I took away from all of that. They give up their weekends, they give up their family time.”

“I thought being a sheriff (deputy) was just a job,” Peterson added. “It’s more than a job. It’s an adventure. They never know day to day or hour to hour what they are going to run into.”

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