EUSTIS — Residents Neil Iverson and Jo Craemer say they learned a lot about law enforcement during a 30-hour Citizens Police Academy presented by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department.

“I think we became more aware of how important their visibility is in the county because they are our only protection, really,” Iverson, who attended with his wife, Sally, said Thursday. “We have no local police department. We learned a lot about the law and enforcement of the laws.”

The program is designed to inform the public of how law enforcement is conducted in rural Franklin County. The academy ran from Jan. 7 to March 11, when graduation was held, Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. said.

The size of the class varied from week to week with seven to nine people from the Eustis area participating. Cpl. Christopher Chase was the lead instructor.

Each student received training from deputies and the department’s command staff on subjects including patrol procedures, criminal law, traffic law, civil law, administration, corrections, communication and K-9 use. They also rode with deputies during a shift, Nichols said.

This type of interaction between the Sheriff’s Department and the residents it serves creates familiarity and transparency and hopefully clarifies any preconceived notions about rural police officers and how they do their jobs, he said.

The department plans to hold one or two academies a year in towns that don’t have their own police departments. The next one will be in Chesterville, Nichols said.

“It was a mental challenge and a huge learning experience,” Craemer said of the academy. She and her husband, Ray, participated in the program.

“It was very interesting,” Jo Craemer said. “Their attitude was to help people rather than to punish them and if they could think of a way to intervene and defuse the situation. They are very pro-community and try to save resources for the community.”

They don’t ignore the laws but look for ways they may be able to help someone without taking them to jail, she said.

During several of the classes, the group had three-hour sessions with law books in front of them.

Participants learned about laws and how deputies enforce them and what their thought process is when they handle a situation, she said.

“We learned what they are guided by and what their restrictions are,” she said. “They are focused on the law.”

It was insight “into a world we didn’t know about,” she said.

“I think we learned a lot about the average day of the sheriff and deputies,” Iverson said. “We learned how they interact and relate with people. They are a lot different from the image you get from reading about them.”

Iverson and Craemer both rode along during a shift with Chase, at separate times.

Iverson said his shift was a on a Friday night.

“It is then you really get to know the deputy and their priorities and what they are doing,” Iverson said. “It was busy.”

One session he found very interesting was when Chase brought his police dog, Abby, for a demonstration, he said. At one point Abby sniffed out drugs, he said.

“It was really fascinating. The dogs are very effective and they use them all the time. They are a good investment for the county,” he said.

Iverson and Craemer said the only thing they were disappointed in was that only seven to nine people from the area participated in the academy.

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