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Sheriff's Citizens' Academy Class 2012 - it's a wrap

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor


Apparently, someone left this cake out in the rain!

Jayne Bones, of Texas Rose Realty and a recent graduate of the Bandera County Sheriff's Office Citizens' Academy, volunteered to be suited up in gear routinely used by troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Everyone thought she looked quite stylish.

Trooper Eric Morgan of the Texas Department of Public Safety appears ready for action.

BCSO Chief Deputy Richard Smith recognized Judy Dunn and her husband, John, for sponsoring a portion of the recently concluded Sheriff's Citizens' Academy.

Deputy Louis Moreno and Sgt. Gerald "Jerry" Johnson of the Bandera County Sheriff's Office demonstrated the use of a diversionary device - among other exciting SWAT-type tactical accouterments.

Randy and Kim McNaughton of McNaughton Insurance were recognized by Chief Deputy Richard Smith for their contributions to the inaugural Sheriff's Citizens' Academy.

As part of his training, jailer Alex Invergo volunteered to be subjected to a pepper spray attack by Sgt. Gerald "Jerry" Johnson. Helpful hint, if you're ever pepper sprayed, douse yourself with a half gallon of milk.

Holding up not their recently acquired certificates of completion, but rather plates piled high with food were the graduates of the recently completed citizens' academy.

Chief Deputy Richard Smith, Capt. Charlie Hicks and Deputy Matt Johnson were instrumental in getting the first Sheriff's Citizens Academy in Bandera County off the ground.

DPS Trooper Scott Shinar - who, contrary to popular belief isn't 12 years old - spoke to participants of the first citizens' academy.

Wednesday, May 30, was graduation day for the 18 Bandera County residents who attended the inaugural Sheriff's Citizens Academy, conducted by members of the Bandera County Sheriff's Office. However, no caps and gowns were donned and a majestic version of "Pomp and Circumstance" didn't play softly in the background.

No, this graduation was better than that - we were treated to a feast.

In the words of Courier staff writer Carolyn B. Edwards, the brisket, cooked by academy coordinator Deputy Matt Johnson, was "totally tender, judiciously juicy and fabulously flavorful," while the barbecued chicken, courtesy of Capt. Charlie Hicks, was - bar none - the best off-the-grill chicken this writer had ever tasted. Accompanying the main dishes were a big pot of homemade beans and potato salad made special with a touch of cilantro from Hicks and Johnson respectively. And the celebratory cake, well, words cannot describe so a photo has been provided.

Suffice to say, however, the eight-week academy fed the mind as well as the body. When completed, participants' noggins were replete with an overview of the myriad subjects and techniques necessary for law enforcement officers.

'Positive problem solving'

As Chief Deputy Richard Smith explained the first night, "It's our hope that graduates of the Sheriff's Citizens' Academy will come away with a better understanding of the procedures, policies and standards of performance as set by the sheriff's office." He also indicated a desire to see SCA graduates take active roles in a proposed community-policing program. "An aggressive proactive attitude stimulates a positive problem-solving atmosphere," Smith said.

To be honest, however, some were probably rethinking their decision to participate after the first session, which included an eyes-rolling-back-in-head foray into the Texas Criminal Code and the mounds of paperwork generated not only by law enforcement, but also by students attending the academy.

However, the following week included tours of the jail by Administrator Terry Green and 9-1-1 Dispatch by Dana Hutcherson. Everyone took a turn in the padded cell. Of course, it's no longer called that, but I cannot recall the correct term and, anyway, the cell really is padded.

By week three, things looked up when BCSO Cpl. Danny Sanchez of the Criminal Investigation Division showed slides from a trio of cases, using the images to explain how suicides were differentiated from homicides.

Pepper spray et al

And, during his discussions of the BCSO Special Operations Unit and "use of force" indicators, Sgt. Gerald "Jerry" Johnson opened with a bang - literally. As a training program, BCSO officers and jailers were doused with pepper spray and stunned with a taser. Pepper spraying and tasing of suspects are considered on the same force continuum - neither of which looked like much fun.

Tasers, which are not supplied by the sheriff's department, can cost up to $1,000. For $500 extra, a tiny computer generates a record of if and how long the device was activated, as well as the date, time and temperature.

"When the department was accused of tasing a suspect eight times, the computer showed the taser had been used twice for two seconds each time," Gerry Johnson said.

Describing always-exciting flashbang diversionary devices as "the best thing since sliced bread," he said they produce six to eight million candlepower and 140 decibels of sound. "It gives us enough time to get into the house before the suspects destroy evidence," Johnson said.

His bang-up flashbang demonstration in the justice center parking lot impressed everyone - especially residents calling 9-1-1 to report an explosion.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not attend the session on May 9. Therefore, according to Edwards, I am likely the only person in Bandera County unfamiliar with the preparation of methamphetamines in a microwave. Deputy Robert Croft reviewed narcotics trends in Texas and Bandera County - hence the treatise on meth production.

'Law & Order'

The following week, 216th Assistant District Attorney Stephen Wadsworth discussed his role in the justice system - just like on re-runs of "Law and Order," but without the sound effects. In fact, he considered "Law and Order," like the "CSI" spin-offs, "great TV that have noting to do with real life."

Wadsworth said 125 felony cases, including pleas and bench and jury trials, are brought forward in Bandera County annually.

Explaining the concept rationale for what some consider cop-out plea bargains, he said, "We contact the victims and discuss the outcome they're seeking - probation or prison. Particularly in the case of sexual assault, we want justice for the victims without re-victimizing them. Something is always better than nothing." Regarding white-collar crimes, Wadsworth noted, "It's a calculus of risk vs. reward."

Michael Earny of the Texas Municipal Police Association spoke about training requirements for peace officers in the State of Texas and ethics, which - contrary to the popular belief of some - remains a part of that training. Suffice to say, at BCSO the words "boat" and "fishing" are never used in the same sentence.

"Law enforcement officers are public servants who work for the people," he said, adding, "99.5 percent of people hate law enforcement until they need it." Amen to that, Brother Earny.

'Enter DPS'

May 23rd lecturers included Deputy Arnold Harst, who serves as the DARE officer, as well as with the TRIAD and Explorer programs, and Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers Scott Shinar and Eric Morgan, who offered insights on investigations of vehicular accidents.

Under their purview, DPS troopers conduct precise measurement of skid marks, then apply a mathematical formula to calculate the rate of speed at which a driver careened off an embankment or slammed into a tree.

Well, that involved too many numbers for this writer - as in, "This is BS.

I don't want to be a math genius. I just wanna arrest people!"

Some interesting DPS statistics revealed included that last year, 2,119 troopers made 2.6 million traffic stops that resulted in 26,909 arrests of which 15,653 were of high threat criminals. "And of that number, we had less than a 1 percent complaint rate," Morgan said.

'The Fusion Center'

Perhaps the most interesting of all their revelations - to me, at least - was about the DPS Texas Fusion Center in Austin. Not many civilians have heard of that place.

The website www.txdps.state.tx.us, describes the Texas Fusion Center - aka the Watch Center - as a "24/7 unit that works with federal, state, regional and local law enforcement and serves as the state repository for homeland security information and incident reporting. It provides real-time intelligence support to law enforcement and public safety authorities, and consolidates information and data on suspicious activities and threats from all jurisdictions and disciplines as well as the public. During emergencies or periods of increased threat, the Center may ramp up to receive and process additional information."

The only unanswered question was: "How do I sign up?" I think working there is about as close to Jack Bauer as I'm going to get here in Texas.

'Distracted driving'

On the evening of graduation, Earny returned for an encore that provided a sobering crash course - no pun intended - on distracted driving for adults. "Every day in the United States, 90 people are killed in vehicular crashes," he said. "Can you imagine what would happen to the aviation industry if 90 people were killed in airplane crashes everyday. It would be shutdown."

Suffice to say, after viewing commercials geared for the European market - deemed "too graphic" for uber-sensitive Americans - no one, and I mean no one, should text and drive. Or even make a cell phone call, for that matter.

At graduation, participants agreed that the academy should continue and even expand to a 12-week session.

However, that decision will be made by the next BCSO administration, to be determined at the July 31 run-off election between Frances Kaiser and Daniel "Dan" Butts.

During the Thursday, June 14 meeting, Bandera County Commissioners Court honored civilian sponsors for the inaugural BCSO Citizens Academy that included John and Judy Dunn of Bandera towing and recovery and the McNaughton Insurance, owned by Randy and Kim McNaughton.