FCSO Offers Glimpse Inside Department

FAIRFIELD – The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office is planning its second Citizens’ Academy, which will begin May 21 and run through June 25, and citizens who participated in the pilot program are buzzing about the original six sessions, held at the Sheriff’s Office’s training facility.

“It was the greatest class I’ve ever participated in,” said Sonya “Cookie” Kennedy, of Winnsboro. “It was more than I thought it was going to be. Each week got more interesting.”

Kennedy said she took home some valuable information, like keeping one’s car keys on the night stand when going to bed. A quick pressing of the “Panic” button on a standard set of modern car keys, setting off the car alarm, can generate enough noise to scare off a potential home intruder, alert neighbors to a dangerous situation and buy one time to dial 9-1-1.

“I’ve always had a respect for law enforcement, but now I have an even greater respect,” Kennedy said. “Every citizen in Fairfield County should take the time to attend these classes.”

Chief Deputy Keith Lewis said the Academy is designed to introduce citizens to the Sheriff’s Office and to give them a realistic perspective of law enforcement.

“A lot of people don’t know what all the Sheriff’s Office does,” Lewis said. “So many people are used to television crime dramas, they don’t understand that collecting and analyzing DNA samples takes as long as it takes, that it’s harder to find finger prints than you think it is.”

The classes will run from 7 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday at the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office Training Center, 5509 Old Airport Road in Winnsboro, and will cover everything from an overview of how the FCSO is structured to the anatomy of an actual criminal investigation. Participants must be 21 years of age and citizens of Fairfield County with no, or limited, criminal history and commit to attending at least five out of six sessions. Class size is being limited to 25 participants, so interested parties should sign up now by calling the Sheriff’s Office at 635-4141.

“It was the best investment of my time that I’ve spent in a while,” said Terry Vickers, President of the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce. “I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to attend. It was wonderful. I learned a lot about the training and cross-training in the department. There are a lot of things you don’t think a small-county agency is prepared for, but they are.”

Jeff Schaffer, of the Lake Monticello community, said the Academy gave him a whole new appreciation of what it means to be in law enforcement.

“One thing that impressed me the most was how patient you have to be to be a cop,” Schaffer said. “Obviously, I couldn’t do it.”

The Sheriff’s Office also learned from the pilot program and will use those lessons to enhance future classes.

“We wanted some constructive criticism from this first group, good or bad. We wanted to use them for a sounding board for future classes,” Capt. Brad Douglas said. “I learned we’re more appreciated than we think we are.”