WALHALLA — The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office still has spots open for its first Citizens Police Academy.
Oconee County residents can sign up at www.oconeelaw.com by clicking on the “Citizens Police Academy” link near the upper right portion of the website.
Those selected will meet the Command Staff and many of the deputies of the Sheriff’s Office. Some of the topics covered will be patrol operations, equipment and its uses, criminal investigations, E-911 communications, SWAT team operations, plus a judicial overview by one of the local judges, information on detention and narcotics.
On a Saturday during the classes, instructees will observe a SWAT team demonstration. At the conclusion of the classes, those who participate will be given a shirt, a certificate and a class photo.
The selection process includes a background check. Sgt. Mike McGowan is hoping to reach demographics from every walk of life in Oconee County, with the class size limited to 25 due to logistic limitations.
The Citizens Police Academy will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for 10 Tuesdays from Sept. 2 through Nov. 4 except for Nov. 4, when class will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. because of Election Day.
The SWAT demonstration will take place at the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Advance Firearms and Tactical Training Center on Sept. 13 from 9 a.m. to noon.
Those who are selected with be notified. Participation is free but participants must be 21 or older. Missing two of more classes could result in disqualification from the program.
McGowan said he can also meet with churches that want to discuss safety at their location. McGowan said preparation beforehand is the best way to deal with any future.
“We used to say that certain things that happened in other places can’t happen here,” said McGowan. “However, society has changed and churches need to understand the importance of being prepared before an event could happen. We are not trying to create panic but we are partnering with our area churches to keep everyone safe so they can enjoy their worship experience.”
McGowan has held safety meetings with Oconee County churches to make them aware of certain issues that may arise, from how to protect church property to preventing break-ins and thefts.
He has also answered questions regarding the rights of Concealed Weapon Permit holders to carry firearms in churches to how to handle individuals who enter churches with the sole purpose of interrupting worship services.
“When most people think of church safety, the first thing that comes to mind is regarding church shootings and how to prevent them,” said McGowan. “However, church safety is a wide ranging set of issues and when I conduct church safety meetings, I talk about church shootings, but I also discuss how to prevent someone from taking money from their church to how to best protect their property from being vandalized to what the law says about Concealed Weapon Permit holders. It is a wide range of topics that come up during every meeting.”
Contact McGowan at 864-638-2017 for more information on the Citizens Police Academy or to schedule a church safety meeting.