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Class grows to more than 30 people and has the unique distinction of visiting both the existing jail and the new one

PHOTO COURTESY OF STUDIO JAY PHOTOGRAPHY - Graduates of the 2019 Sheriff's Academy gather for a photo with members of the Sheriff's Office staff.

The 2019 class of the Crook County Sheriff's Academy can claim one distinction that none of the other five prior classes can.

They not only got the tour of the existing local jail, which has been a part of the program since Sheriff John Gautney launched it, they got to tour the new jail that will replace it.

As the group of about 30 people, the largest class yet, compared the two facilities side-by-side, they were struck by how poor of condition the current jail is and how much nicer the new one will be once completed. According to Sgt. Bill Elliott, who led the academy, the group concluded that the new facility is very nice, and long overdue.

The 2019 version of the Sheriff's Academy launched in early February and was held weekly on Wednesday evenings for two hours during a 13-week span. It focuses on a variety of law enforcement work and on what the Sheriff's Office does daily.

"We try to go in a progression starting with the past," Elliott explained. "We start out with the history of policing and the history of the sheriff. The sheriff does a presentation. Then we go into how to become a deputy and those kinds of things, and then we progress through criminal investigation, use of force and range. We have MILO, which is simulated (use of force) scenarios."

Elliott said that MILO was initially designed for military training and has changed over the years and under different names to become the interactive use of force training system that is used for law enforcement training. People are put in scenarios on-screen where they must react.

All of the use of force training provides enough education that graduates of the academy clear one hurdle in getting their concealed handgun license.

"It counts toward the handgun safety class that you have to have to get your concealed handgun license," Elliott said.

Other classes that have become popular with academy participants cover domestic violence, drugs and SWAT.

"I have a drug detective come in. They get to see all of that and there are a ton of questions," Elliott noted.

The first academy only lasted about eight weeks, but due to its popularity and a hunger for more information and topics from participants, it has grown to a 13-week program.

"People keep eating it up and wanting more and more," Elliott said.

The program has also helped the Sheriff's Office staff interact more often with the public and meet with them in a positive setting.

"That's a huge thing for me," Elliot remarked. "It's not uncommon for us to run a little bit late. It is also not uncommon for people to help us clean up the room afterward and sit around and visit with us."

He added that in each class, without any prompting, one person will inevitably take the lead in the class and organize such things as bringing snacks to the event.

The next Sheriff's Academy is planned for early next year — the exact timeframe is yet to be determined.

"People have responded really well to the program," Elliott remarked. "People seem to be happy with it."

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