After 10 weeks of classes, which included a wide variety of hands-on experiences and instruction, 16 Santa Barbara County residents graduated last Saturday from the Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown presented each graduate with a certificate of completion following a celebration barbecue at Stow Grove Park in Goleta.

The Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy is designed to give residents an inside look at just some of what the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department does on a daily basis to keep its citizens safe. During the course of the program, the class toured the jail, fired a handgun and participated as role players in SWAT training, just to name a few of the experiences. They also observed a K-9 operation demonstration and participated in a question-and-answer forum with a narcotics detective and a dispatcher.

One of the graduates, Taylor Davis, a paramedic from Santa Barbara, said the experience was life-changing.

“The Citizen’s Academy gave me a new appreciation for the incredible dedication and passion that the deputies at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office have for their community and the service they provide,” Davis said.

Another graduate, Guisela Martinez, said, “I learned our deputies are not just cops; they are people doing their job — and a hard one, too.”

While the Sheriff’s Department has put on a Citizen’s Academy in both North and South County for many years, this is the first year City of Goleta Community Resource Deputy Dave Valadez was in charge of overseeing the program.

“The Citizen’s Academy is about building common ground and coming together for the sake of the civic duty we all have and share,” he said.

The North County Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy will be held in the fall. You must be at least 18 years of age, and spots are limited for this free program. Click here for more information.

— Kelly Hoover is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.