Bay County-- Law enforcement officers protect and serve the public. That often means putting their own lives at risk, serving on special units like SWAT, the bomb squad, K-9 and air units. Our 4th week of the citizen’s police academy gave us a look at those jobs, and then some.
None of the 30 CPA class members, men and women ranging from 23 years old to retirement age, knew what to expect as we gathered around a field behind the Bay County Sheriff's office for a day of demonstrations.
"I have been surprised of just how much work actually goes on. They just don't sit at donut shops and eat donuts," said a local pastor.
That's true for the four-legged officers, too. Five deputies and eight dogs make up Bay County's K-9 unit. They receive 400 hours of specialized training and conduct about 200 missions a year.
The 18 member SWAT team stays busy, too, training every week and on-call 24/7. The SWAT team usually responds to high-risk situations that require heavy-duty gear and equipment.
Sometimes boots on the ground just aren't enough. That's where the sheriff's office air unit comes in.
The air unit’s primary purpose is to help everybody else like the bomb squad, the SWAT team and search and rescue. For instance, one day last summer they helped rescue 15 people from the Gulf.
"We probably average 10-15 children or Alzheimer’s patients or people that's lost out in the woods and various places throughout the year," said one of the pilots.
Our final class also included a trip to the driving range. We actually had to pass a similar course officers go through. And we all agree, shuffle steering is not easy.
"This is a learning experience for everyone. Some of the driving habits law enforcement officers use is different," said Deputy Tim Bowen.
No caps and gowns at graduation. But we did receive certificates, photos and cake to celebrate completing Bay County's citizen police academy.
It was enlightening to learn how dedicated the men and women in green are to serving our community.
The sheriff's office began the citizens police academy in 1996.