Mar 8, 2009 - Like St. Bernard homes, businesses and residents, the Sheriff’s Office was heavily affected by the hurricane but has bounced back to form with a strong commitment to protecting the parish, members of the first post-storm class of the Citizens Police Academy was told on opening night, Wednesday, March 4.
“We are maintaining the level of security we had before,’’ Chief Deputy Sheriff James Pohlmann told more than 40 St. residents who attended the first night of a free 8-week program.
The classes are meant to open lines of communications between the community and Sheriff’s Office. The program of lectures and hands-on demonstrations are held at Nunez Community College.
“You will get an intimate look at the Sheriff’s Office,’’ Pohlmann promised the group, which included some who said they wanted to learn more law enforcement. There also some who previously attended a Citizens Police Academy before the storm.
“I think you will say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know the Sheriff’s Office was that sophisticated,’’’ Pohlmann said, adding a whole array of new equipment has been added since the storm – backed by a mix of veteran and well-trained new sheriff’s deputies.
“We have a good, competent department you can e proud of,’’ Pohlmann said, adding the Sheriff’s Office has made the transition from being decimated by Hurricane Katrina to bouncing back with the same commitment to protect the parish.
Salaries for deputies have been increased to retain good people as well as recruit necessary new ones, he said.
While there have been increases in such crimes as theft of copper from homes, a crime that virtually didn’t exist before the hurricane, armed robberies are rare – with especially few reports of individuals being robbed – and response time to calls for assistance is still excellent, Pohlmann said.
Maj. Mark Poche addressed the class about the Sheriff’s Patrol Division, saying it is the group of deputies that normally first comes in contact with the public because they respond to calls of emergency or for other assistance.
Training is a top priority, Poche said, adding, “No one hits the streets until they have been to the (police training) academy.’’
The department has added new deputies since the storm, Poche said, but “We have good sergeants and lieutenants in place to help the young guys.’’
Sheriff’s Director of Crime Prevention Capt. Charles Borchers is coordinating the Citizens Police Academy, along with Capt. Marty Melerine of the Crime Prevention Division.
Borchers said crime prevention improves when residents feel they have a good relationship with police and know they can report suspicious activity and an officer will come to investigate.
There will likely be another Citizens Police Academy in the fall or next Spring, Borchers said, adding he can be reached at (504) 278-7628.
New in the Citizens Police Academy course are boating safety tips, hands-on use of equipment including a firearms simulator that has citizens decide whether they would use a weapon in certain situations, as well as a SWAT Team demonstration, said Borchers. There is also a review of operations of the Sheriff’s Narcotics, Detective, Juvenile, Street Crimes, Marine, Patrol and Traffic divisions.