Participants say they are taking free Sheriff’s Office Citizens Police Academy class which just started because they want to learn about law enforcement in St. Bernard Parish

Posted: August 26th, 2016 | Filed under: SBSO News
Capt. Charles Borchers, who coordinates the Academy with Dep. Sheriff Eric Eilers, speaks to members of the class.

Capt. Charles Borchers, who coordinates the Academy with Dep. Sheriff Eric Eilers, speaks to members of the class.

Maj, Chad Clark, talks about narcotics enforcement to the opening night class of Citizens Police Academy.

Maj, Chad Clark, talks about narcotics enforcement to the opening night class of Citizens Police Academy.

Several people said they are taking the free Sheriff’s Office Citizens Police Academy class which started Aug. 24 because they want to learn what law enforcement is about in St. Bernard Parish.

Terrance Sanchez of Meraux, who is affiliated with the One Voice Task Force community group, said, “Our goal is to bring together the community and the Sheriff’s Office.’’

As part of that, he said, “I wanted to see what law enforcement goes through on a day-to-day basis,’’ Sanchez said. “It looks like it will be an interesting class.’’

Bilin Thomas of Chalmette said she took the class in preparation for applying to become a sheriff’s deputy. “I have wanted to be a police officer for a long time’’ and thought the class would be a good educational tool.

And Suzanne Maitre of Chalmette said, “I want to be better informed’’ in order to “give moral support’’ to relatives already on the Sheriff’s Office force. She also said, “I want to learn whatever I can to make St. Bernard a better place.’’

Capt. Charles Borchers and Dep. Sheriff Eric Eilers coordinate the 10-week course, now in its 18th year, which includes a graduation ceremony on Oct. 26. More than 700 parish residents have taken the Citizens Police Academy class.

Sheriff James James Pohlmann will also address the group of about 40 St. Bernard Parish residents.

The course is primarily about hearing from veteran representatives of each division of the Sheriff’s Office, with a chance to ask questions and get frank answers, get to see the equipment the officers use and visit the Parish Prison for a look at what goes on there.

“Participants learn about what police work entails in the parish,’’ Sheriff Pohlmann said.

Maj. Chad Clark, commander of the Special Investigations Division which includes the Narcotics Unit and Street Crimes, told the group his officers work daily tracking leads on drug-dealers in the parish and work with federal authorities, State Police and agencies in other parishes to fight drug networks that stretch across parish lines.

He frankly said, “I don’t know if we are winning the war on drugs, but I believe we are winning in St. Bernard Parish.”

And Clark said residents need to understand the surge in the use and sales of heroin, which is ravishing many parts of the nation as well as the New Orleans area, including St. Bernard.

The purity of the drug, matched with the fact it has gone down in price as drug cartels have flooded America with their product, is responsible for so many overdose deaths nationally, Clark said.

St. Bernard, luckily, has seen OD deaths decline to one in the last year, a fact Clark credits to the parish Fire Department and its policy of responding to medical emergencies with the drug Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name, Narcan, which often can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose.

Clark said everyone should know heroin is highly addictive but said some may not realize how difficult a drug it is to kick once a person is addicted. “There is not a lot of success when it comes to the battle of heroin addiction and everyone should be aware of its effects,” he said.

Parents also have to be concerned about synthetic marijuana which has killed some young people and the use of prescription drugs, sometimes by juveniles who steal them from the medicine cabinet of relatives and the parents of friends, Clark said.

He also said he, like Sheriff Pohlmann, is adamantly opposed to the legalization of marijuana for several reasons, including the fact the potentsy of the drug being seen today is much greater than years ago, making it unsafe to drive on both for the user and anyone else on the road.

Also Clark said, with the high quality marijuana now worth $7,000 a pound, there are increasing cases of robbery of dealers – endangering anyone living in the neighborhood of the dealer. Also, it is common now to find guns being used by dealers to protect their product, which also raises the likelihood of shootouts in which bystanders get hurt.

Anyone who suspects drug activity anywhere in the parish should call the Sheriff’s Office narcotics line at (504) 271-DOPE or 271-3673. All calls are investigated and often lead to breaking up major narcotics networks, Clark said.