Jan. 12—The Cleveland County Sheriff's Office is recruiting locals to be a part of its second class of the Beyond Our Badge Citizen's Academy.
The course starts on April 6 and cadets will graduate on June 15. The 10-week academy meets 6-8 p.m. every Thursday. Cadets will receive a background check and may not have any felonies on their record.
The academy will not qualify anyone for a career in law enforcement, rather, it gives citizens an opportunity to learn about what it is like to work at a sheriff's office.
Students will learn specialized skills in patrol, dispatch, K-9 training, and they will experience a firearms simulator.
"It is very much like a police academy, but we really want the community to understand that the sheriff's department is a different animal than the police department," said Kim Lopez, Cleveland County lieutenant sheriff.
Police departments serve municipalities, whereas sheriff departments serve counties.
"The word sheriff will tell you everything you need to know," said Lopez. "It is a derivative of two words, 'shire,' which is a designation of a portion of land, and a 'reef,' which is a part of an ocean that protects fish," said Lopez. "So a sheriff, or a shire reef, is a designated portion of land protector."
She said that the sheriff's department looks after those in the county who don't have a municipality to look after them.
Whitney Hartzog, Cleveland County Sheriff's Department records clerk, served as a dispatcher last year, and taught at the academy in what Lopez said was its most popular class.
"I thought it was a great experience. I really liked doing the PowerPoint (presentation)," said Hartzog. "It was cool to get other people to see what we do to help them understand what we go through, as well as to make them more knowledgeable when they call 911, or when they just call us in general.
Cadets will learn how many calls the office takes, how many deputies are on the streets, the 911 system, how the office maps out the county, and how the office treats civil cases versus criminal cases.
"In civil cases, we have to lock people out of their homes when they refuse to pay rent, or when couples get in divorce," said Lopez. "He's mad at her, and she's mad at him, so we secure the property until they get their things. We keep the peace. We are the first office of law enforcement."
Cadets will experience a firearms simulator where they must respond to voice commands. They will wield a gun-shaped object that will show them where their shots landed.
"If they need to protect a school from a critical incident, namely a shooting, they can feel what it's like to be in our boots," said Lopez. "When you are responding to something like that, you can't stop and help a child that's been shot in the leg, as much as you would want to. You can't stop. You have to eliminate the threat."
She said that these kinds of activities help cadets understand how quickly law enforcement has to make decisions.
Cadets will also learn about the sex registry and the investigations division. They will have a chance to visit the courthouse to experience what it is like to sit in a jury seat.
"If you have wondered why a sheriff's office operates the way it does, and you have armchair quarterbacked your whole life, we want your opinion," said Lopez. "We want to hear from you."
Cadets must be at least 18 years old. Lopez described the BOB Academy as a serious commitment, as those who miss one class will not be invited to return.
"We need you here. If you miss one week, you are going to miss a lot. We have crammed so much into this," she said.
Those interested in signing up can learn more at ccso-ok.us. Applications can be downloaded at https://www.ccso-ok.us/ImageRepository/Document?documentID=1819.