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2/8/2018 3:24:00 PM
Residents glean insight into history, activities of sheriff's office
by Kevin Spradlin

GREENSBORO - Teeth bared. A menacing growl. A stare that would stop the bravest soul with fear.

Thankfully, it was only a photo of a Guilford County Sheriff's Office K-9 and not the real thing. Eighteen participants in the annual Sheriff's Citizens Academy, coordinated by the Guilford County Sheriff's Office, couldn't help but react with a little laughter and, likely, no small amount of relief.

"That's the last thing you see before you get bit," quipped Chief Deputy T.R. Powers as he spoke on Feb. 1 at the sheriff's office in downtown Greensboro.

The academy is an annual event dating back to at least 1998. It offers an overview of the sheriff's office, its mission and the people tasked with carrying out that mission - all with the goal of serving county residents by reducing crime and keeping life and property safe.

Academy graduates will be recognized on March 27 after completing eight sessions on consecutive Thursday evenings plus four Saturday sessions, for a total of 43.5 hours of instruction. During that time, they will see demonstrations and presentations about firearms, use of force, laws surrounding arrest, search and seizure, concealed carry permitting procedures, the emergency response team, traffic stops, jail contraband searches, the air support unit and more.

Joyce Swaim, the academy coordinator, says she first went through the program in 1998.

"I learn something new every year," Swaim told participants in this year's academy.

Powers spent the bulk of his presentation last Thursday introducing participants to the hierarchy, scope and purpose of the sheriff's office. The office is led by Sheriff B.J. Barnes, now in his 24th year as the county's elected sheriff. He is the county's 44th sheriff and oversees an agency with 775 employees, including 266 full-time sworn law enforcement officers, 65 part-time officers, 344 detention officers and 100 full-time and part-time civilian staff.

The academy's introductory session included an inquisitive audience who asked Powers and other officers present direct questions about jail capacity, how to help the homeless and formerly incarcerated stay out of jail, and hiring practices.

Powers noted the office is undergoing a justification study that he hopes will result in a recommendation for additional officers. He said he expects the study to reveal the agency needs 20 more patrol officers.

That's music to Alex Southwick's ears. The 19-year-old Summerfield resident and 2017 Northern Guilford graduate is currently enrolled at Guilford Technical Community College. In about a year, he hopes to enroll in the Basic Law Enforcement Training program and become a sheriff's deputy.

Southwick said he hopes the academy offers him "good experience before I actually go out to the field" as an officer. "I really look forward to it," he said, noting he was particularly looking forward to the firearms demonstration on Feb. 17 at the range.

Highlights from last week's first session include Powers' description of Rapid DNA. He said the Guilford County Sheriff's Office is the only law enforcement agency in North Carolina that has the ability to obtain DNA test results in as little as two hours.

In addition, the agency is working to combat recidivism (the tendency of a convicted criminal to commit more crimes). Powers acknowledged it does no good for incarcerated individuals to serve their time if they are only going to end up back in jail or prison. The odds of them doing so increase, however, due to an inability to obtain and hold onto jobs. Powers said a new program to aid those people could be active within the next several weeks.

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