By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)———————————The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office wants to remind our residents that spots remain open for the first ever “Citizens Police Academy” and for churches to schedule a church safety meeting on their campuses.
While churches in Oconee County have not seen many of the problems that other churches around the country have dealt with, Sgt. Mike McGowan of the Sheriff’s Office feels that preparation beforehand is the best way to deal with any future problems that may arise.
“We used to say that certain things that happened in other places can’t happen here,” says Sgt. McGowan, who provides information and meets with local area churches to coordinate church safety meetings. “However, society has changed and churches need to understand the importance of being prepared before an event could happen. We are not trying to create panic but we are partnering with our area churches to keep everyone safe so they can enjoy their worship experience.”
Sgt. McGowan has held several church safety meetings with Oconee County churches to make them aware of certain issues that may arise, from how to protect church property to preventing break-ins and thefts to answering questions regarding the rights of Concealed Weapon Permit holders to carry firearms in churches to how to handle individuals who enter churches with the sole purpose of interrupting worship services..
“When most people think of church safety, the first thing that comes to mind is regarding church shootings and how to prevent them,” continues Sgt. McGowan. “However, church safety is a wide ranging set of issues and when I conduct church safety meetings, I talk about church shootings, but I also discuss how to prevent someone from taking money from their church to how to best protect their property from being vandalized to what the law says about Concealed Weapon Permit holders. It is a wide range of topics that come up during every meeting.”
Sgt. McGowan is also heavily involved in the first ever “Citizens Police Academy” in September and spots are still available to be involved.
Citizens of Oconee County can sign up now for the classes at the website of the Sheriff’s Office at www.oconeelaw.com by clicking on the “Citizens Police Academy” link near the upper right portion of the website. You must 21 years of age or older to participate in the “Citizens Police Academy.”
Those who are selected will have a chance to meet the Command Staff and many of the deputies of the Sheriff’s Office. Some of the topics covered will be patrol operations, equipment and its uses, criminal investigations, E-911 communications, SWAT team operations, plus a judicial overview by one of the local judges, information on detention and narcotics. On a Saturday during the classes, instructees will observe a SWAT team demonstration. At the conclusion of the classes, those who participate will be given a shirt, a certificate and a class photo.
There is a selection process for those who sign up, which includes a background check. Sgt. McGowan is hoping to reach demographics from every walk of life in Oconee County, with the class size limited to 25 due to logistic limitations. The classes will meet for 10 consecutive weeks on Tuesday evenings with one Saturday meeting for the SWAT demonstration.
Participation in all the classes is important, according to Sgt. McGowan, due to the fact of the volume of information that is going to be presented. Missing two of more classes may result in a disqualification from the program.
The dates for the first “Citizens Police Academy” will be each Tuesday from Tuesday, September 2nd until Tuesday, November 4th from 6pm until 9pm except for the November 4th date, in which the time will be from 7:30pm until 9pm because of Election Day. The SWAT demonstration will take place at the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Advance Firearms and Tactical Training Center on Saturday, September 13th from 9am until 12 noon.
All those who are selected with be notified. There is no cost for those who are selected for the “Citizens Police Academy.”
For more information on the “Citizens Police Academy” or to schedule a church safety meeting, contact Sgt. McGowan at 864-638-2017.