Local Citizens’ Academy graduates latest class Tuesday evening | The Cullman Tribune


Citizens’ Academy graduates latest class Tuesday evening

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange looks on as Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry addresses the Fall 2016 graduating class of the Cullman Sheriff's Citizens' Academy on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Desperation Church in Cullman.

CULLMAN - The Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) on Tuesday evening hosted a ceremony for the newest graduating class of the popular Sheriff’s Citizens’ Academy. Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry, along with several deputies and other officers were on hand to congratulate the class. The night’s special guest and keynote speaker was Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

The Citizens’ Academy is an intensive 9-week program in which enrollees meet one night a week, the end goal of which is for citizens to have a better understanding of the function and responsibilities of the CCSO.

To accomplish that goal, the academy puts members through immersive activities such as patrol car ride-alongs, firing range training, classroom lectures (from speakers such as members of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Cullman County District Attorney, a member of the Secret Service, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and local judges), SWAT demonstrations and a visit to the Cullman County Detention Center. Basically, students learn what deputies might encounter in their daily work.

“Believe me, they (law enforcement officers) need your help,” said Strange, as he alluded to the recent spates of violence against officers.

Strange has been the state’s attorney general for six years and says he has seen first-hand the evolution of policing, even in his relatively short tenure.

“Now, everything that’s done in law enforcement is done with a computer or smartphone. Law enforcement is changing like crazy,” said Strange, who says he believes that officers need more training and help from the community as a whole. “Law enforcement is all about teamwork,” he said.  

Said Gentry, “One of the goals that we have set out a year and 10 months ago was returning the office of the sheriff back to the people. We have an obligation to protect each other.

“The greatest thing that we can do as law enforcement is build strength together,” he continued. “The Citizens’ Academy is about building relationships with the community.”

Burean Huff, of Holly Pond, is one citizen of Cullman County who completed the program and was recognized Tuesday night. Huff says he particularly enjoyed getting to meet all of the officers, going to the firing range and riding along with officers on patrol.

“I’m very proud of a great group of citizens who were dedicated to coming every week and participating in the program,” said Gentry.

Graduating members received a diploma, mug and sweatshirt.

The Sheriff’s Citizens’ Academy is held two times per year. The next one will begin at the end of January or beginning of February. Applications can be obtained from the CCSO, which is located at 1910 Beech Ave. SE in Cullman.


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