Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

The Macon County Sheriff’s Office is gearing up for its spring Citizens Academy, a program geared toward building community relations and informing the public about local law enforcement efforts.

“Each time we hold this free course, we always have a lot of fun, and everyone who has attended has had great things to say about the academies,” said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland. “The academy gives citizens the opportunity to learn more about what we do and gain a better understanding of the day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s department.”

Since its inception, the Macon County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy has graduated three classes of individuals who completed the course, gaining insight into the county’s law enforcement agency. Applications are now being accepted for the spring class of the MCSO Citizens Academy, which is set to begin on April 13.

Transparency within the Sheriff’s Office has always been a priority for Sheriff Holland, which led him to launch the first Citizen’s Academy in 2013. More than informing the public, the Citizens Academy gives members of the Sheriff’s Department an opportunity to meet members of the community and build public relations.

“The partnerships we have built through this program are an important benefit to our department but also the community as a whole as the public often acts as the eyes and ears of our agency,” said Holland.

The 2017 spring course is set to kick off on Thursday, April 13. The course will run from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. and will be held for 10 consecutive weeks. This will mark the fourth time the sheriff’s department has held the Citizens Academy, which is completely free to the community. A few slots are still available for interested participants to enroll.

Participants will take part in presentations from members of MCSO departments ranging from tactical SWAT, K9s, narcotics, juvenile and criminal investigations, detention, community patrols and DUI and various other aspects of the sheriff’s office. In addition to classes at the sheriff’s department annex office, participants will take field trips to see the jail and the gun range.

“The academy is always a great opportunity for citizens to come in and see from the inside what our agency does and has to offer and see where their tax dollars are being spent,” said Holland. “The public acts as the eyes and ears of our agency and any time we can build partnerships within the community, it’s always a benefit to not only this agency, but to the county as a whole.”

The 10-week course breaks down the different functions of the MCSO and begins with a lesson in how the local Sheriff’s Office was established. In Macon County, sheriffs are elected to a four-year term with Holland serving as the county’s sheriff for more than 14 years. The Macon County Sheriff’s Office was started in 1828 with Sheriff B.W. Bell serving as the county’s first sheriff. Since the early 1800s, Macon County has had 26 sheriffs and three jails.

Macon County’s Citizens Academy is modeled after the successful community program of Gaston County, which has been sponsoring a citizens academy for the last 20 years and has used that program as a guide in putting the program together.

Spaces in the class are limited and an application must be submitted. The application can be found online at www.maconnc.org/images/sheriff/citizensacademyapplication.pdf or by contacting the Macon County Sheriff’s Office at (828)349-2104.

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