As if 2011 wasn’t busy enough with the new projects I took on (you have tried OpenShift, right?) I also managed to find an extra 55 hours over the past few months to attend a really interesting program put on by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office called the Citizens’ Academy.

I was particularly interested in learning more about the Washington County Sheriff’s office because they patrol the area I live in.  We have a Portland address, but technically live in “unincorporated part of Washington County” or “no city at all,” for which we pay a special tax levy for enhanced patrol services.  We didn’t appreciate this until recently when our normally, very quiet neighborhood was subject to a number of petty theft car break-ins.

This resulted in a presentation by Darlene Schnoor from the Sheriff Office’s Crime Prevention Team to our neighborhood watch meeting.  I was impressed with the presentation and deputies who attended.  On the way out I picked up a brochure for the Citizen’s Academy, with little thought of actually applying.  At the start of 2011 I realized I needed to get out more and expand my contacts and involvement in the local community and this looked like a natural, if a little unusual way to do it.

I love trying out new things to get new perspectives and ideas to stretch myself.  I figured I might also meet some interesting people in the community.  This program really attracted my attention because it was about organizations–law enforcement and corrections–I’ve never had any experience or contact with before.

The classes covered a variety of topics including patrol, use of force, jail services, DUII, hostage negotiation, SWAT, 911 call center, homicide, forensics, K9, etc… practically every aspect of what the Sheriff’s Office does, which is a lot of things.   At one Saturday class, participants had the option to experience the Taser.  A reporter from the Oregonian described what it was like.

Through this program I also had the opportunity to observe a full shift (8 hours) in the Washington County Jail which gave an interesting view into the inner-workings of how arrestees and inmates are processed and housed.  At the jail and throughout  the other classes, I was particularly impressed with the professionalism, friendliness, candor, and kindness of the deputies and staff I met.

If you have an interest (or none at all) in law enforcement or corrections, I highly recommend the Washington Sheriff’s Citizen Academy as a way to expand your horizons and get an inside look at where your tax dollars go and how the the Sheriff’s Office protects and serves the community.