Citizens Police Academy session opens for 15th year; Sheriff says department at a top professional level

Posted: August 31st, 2014 | Filed under: News Releases
Sheriff James Pohlmann addresses the opening night of the latest Citizens Police Academy.

Sheriff James Pohlmann addresses the opening night of the latest Citizens Police Academy.

Capt. Charles Borchers in front of a large audience of participants at the Citizens Police Academy class.

Capt. Charles Borchers in front of a large audience of participants at the Citizens Police Academy class.

Sheriff James Pohlmann told a new class of the Citizens Police Academy that because of St. Bernard’s relatively small size, “Some might believe we are Mayberry.’’

The reference was to the sleepy town of fictional Mayberry, N.C,, and its two-man Sheriff’s Office force of Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife from the old “Andy Griffith” TV show of years ago.

But Sheriff Pohlmann assured the class of more than 35 parish residents on its first night of a new session that, “We are not Mayberry.’’

The St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office is a professional law enforcement agency with well-trained and equipped officers using the latest technology to fight crime, he said. Nearly all the members of the senior command staff are graduates of the well known FBI National Training Academy in Virginia, an enviable statistic for any law enforcement department.

The sheriff said the department has come a long way, referring to the day 31 years ago when, as a young basically untrained deputy, he was given the keys to a police unit and put on the streets to patrol St. Bernard, the sheriff said.

“Things have changed’’ so much over the years, he said, inclyduing an emphasis on hiring the best people, training and equipping them.

Participants in the Citizens Police Academy class “will hear about things you may never have dreamed of,’’ about this department and how advanced it is, Sheriff Pohlmann said.

He said the Sheriff’s Office continues to have a good relationship with residents who have shown a willingness to cooperate by making timely calls to the department if they see something suspicious in their neighborhood.

“And we back that up with a quick response time’’ when calls come in.

The sheriff acknowledged “everyone is concerned about drugs’’ in society because, like everywhere else in the country, they exact a toll on a community, with the majority of property crime driven by drug abusers stealing to get money for their next high.

Some people ask what is different between now and before the parish’s devastation by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said. One fact he acknowledges is, “We lost a lot of good people from this parish who moved away’’ after the storm and “have kept some of the bad.’’

But there are still many good people in the parish and many who have moved to St. Bernard since the storm are law-abiding ones who want a safe place for their families, he said,

As for numbers, while there are fewer people living here now, arrests some months are higher than comparable months before Katrina and the number of calls for service are sometimes just 10 percent less than before the storm, he said.

And the department has fewer employees than before the storm, which means their willingness to perform at a high caliber is so important, he said. And it is more vital than ever for residents to call the Sheriff’s Office at 271-2501 if they see anything in their neighborhood that looks out of place or in ny way suspicious.

Citizens Police Academy started in St. Bernard in 1999 and more than 600 parish residents have gone through the free 10-week course that involves meetings on Wednesday nights, with a graduation ceremony this year at the end of October.

Capt. Charles Borchers, who directs Citizens Police Academy assisted by Dep. Eric Eilers, said the class “isn’t designed to make you a police officer’’ but to foster good relations between the department and the community. It offers insights into police work here and allows participants to get answers to questions about their parish. Many who take the sessions say they are looking for more information about how the parish works.

Borchers can also be called at 278-7628 if anyone wants to start a Neighborhood Watch program on their street, if they are interested in being considered for the sheriff’s Reserve Division or to receive information about the annual Night Out Against Crime celebration coming up in October.

Maj. David DiMaggio, head of training for the department, also spoke on the increased emphasis on training since Sheriff Pohlmann took office July 1, 2012, and he described the application and hiring process to become a sheriff’s deputy.