The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) is holding its free annual Citizen’s Academy in March, allowing county residents to learn more about what it’s like to be a sheriff’s deputy.
The 12-week academy, which takes place in Bellingham every Tuesday evening starting on March 10, aims to familiarize local residents with WCSO’s mission and values.
“We certainly see a benefit to educating the public about what their sheriff’s office does,” WCSO undersheriff Doug Chadwick said. “I think that goes a long way toward the community outreach and public trust that are essential for us to do our job.”
Chadwick said the most important thing people learn from the academy is that their local law enforcement does more than what is portrayed on television. There are many different facets of the department that benefit Whatcom County residents, Chadwick said.
In every class, there will be one to four instructors present who oversee the specific patrol operations being discussed that day. The class will start with the instructors explaining what training they received before going into the day-to-day duties for their jobs.
The K-9 class is a crowd favorite, Chadwick said. The instructor talks about the work the dogs do and will bring a dog to the class to perform a demonstration.
According to WCSO’s website, other topics will include: criminal investigations, patrol procedures, SWAT (special weapons and tactics), the drug and gang task force, traffic enforcement, crime scene investigations, marine patrol and jail operations.
The department limits the program to 25 participants to allow all participants to receive a personalized experience. The program allows residents to ask questions they’ve been wondering for a long time, Chadwick said.
“Twelve weeks is a big commitment but I think anyone who has been through the Citizen’s Academy has seen the benefits and really appreciates learning more about the sheriff’s office,” Chadwick said.
The academy has been held off-and-on for the past 10 years, Chadwick said. Staffing and funding issues have caused it to be canceled in some years.
Chadwick encouraged anyone over 18 in Whatcom County to apply. Space is filling up quickly, but Chadwick said there will be other opportunities if people don’t get in this year. Opportunities to have conversations with the department are not limited to the academy, Chadwick said.
The academy will run every Tuesday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. from March 10 to May 26. Classes will be held at WCSO’s emergency management facility near the Bellingham airport. Applications are accepted until the academy is filled with 25 participants. Participants are required to be at least 18 years old. All materials will be provided during the academy. For more information, visit bit.ly/2SWntDE or call 360/778-6600.