It’s that time of year again – the time when the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department begins working with residents who’d like to know a whole lot more about law enforcement. The classes are also, in some cases, a way for the department to find budding new deputies to address what in recent years has been a very high vacancy rate.

The Sheriff’s Department is offering the “Sheriff’s Citizen Academy” to those who reside in Guilford County and are interested in learning more about the department’s internal processes and about law enforcement practices in general.

The stated goal of the academy is “to improve law enforcement community relations through a formalized educational process.”

The 2020 classes will meet from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings, starting on Thursday, Feb. 27 and they will run until Thursday, April 16. Those sessions – which will be held at the sheriff’s administrative headquarters at 400 W. Washington St. in Greensboro – will cover a wide variety of topics. In addition, there will be four “laboratories” at various locations, with those dates and times to be announced later.

According to promotional literature for the course, the Sheriff’s Citizen Academy will offer “a wide range of topical training subjects condensed from the standard training curriculum of sheriff’s deputies.” It adds, “By presenting this program, we hope to provide a broad educational experience which will acquaint attending citizens with the mission of sheriff’s personnel and the requirements of law to which officers must conform while carrying out their prescribed duties.”

According to Sheriff’s Department officials, one hope is that citizens will be able to make more informed judgments about law enforcement activities once they’ve gone through the academy. It’s no secret that classes such as this are meant to help ordinary citizens understand why deputies and other law enforcement officers react the way they do in some high-pressure situations.

Those holding the classes also say this is a way, through student feedback, to help the department become more aware of the feelings and concerns of community members.

A course description states that “Citizens and Sheriff’s representatives will have an opportunity to explore together some of the traditional suspicions and misconceptions generally harbored by both citizens and sheriff’s deputies. Through open discussion of such suspicions and misconceptions, a more harmonious climate for relationships may be established.”

Just a few of the topics to be covered are an overview of the department’s structure, gang violence prevention and crime scene processing.

Some of the coolest parts of the class each year center around working with the K-9 officers and the firearms simulation training systems – where attendees get to take part in a video game-like experience in which they have to make split-second decisions whether to shoot or not.

Anyone interested in participating can google Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and click the link on that page.