For St. Johns County residents who are interested in getting some first-hand knowledge of local law enforcement, the Civilian Law Enforcement Academy is a perfect place to start. So we sat down with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Program Director Greg Suchy to find out what the Academy is all about.
St. Augustine Social: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your role at the Sheriff’s Department?
Greg Suchy: I am an Ohio transplant and worked in law enforcement up there before moving to Florida in 1998. I started with the Sheriff’s Office here in 1999 and next year will be my 20th year with the agency. I have worked in Patrol, Training, Youth Resource, and Community Affairs. I am currently assigned to the Community Affairs Unit, where I am responsible for facilitating the community outreach programs and events that help keep us connected to the community.
What is the mission of the Civilian Law Enforcement Academy?
The mission of the CLEA is to provide the participants with a greater understanding of law enforcement, the Sheriff’s Office and the people who make it work. We want them to look, listen, ask questions, find answers and decide for themselves if we are doing things the right way, at the right time, for the right reason and taking care of people.
What can students expect to learn at the Academy?
The program is 12 weeks long and each week covers one or two different topics. One week might be Narcotics Investigations or Tactical Driving. Another might be Forensics or a Jail Tour. Another might be Firearms or a Special Operations Demo. It’s not death by PowerPoint; it’s hands-on. We bring subject matter experts in or we take the class out to them in the field. Participants can expect an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at nearly every aspect of what we do, and they can expect very candid discussions about the topics discussed during class.
Why do you think it’s important for civilians to have an inside look at law enforcement?
I think it’s important for people to be exposed to the realities of the profession first hand, and to see for themselves what challenges law enforcement agencies face on a daily basis. Until you are sitting in that patrol car, answering that call in Communications or dealing with that inmate in jail, raw and uncensored, with no filter, you can’t begin to understand the complexities of the job and the dedication of the people doing it. The most frequent comment from the participants at the end of the program is that they can’t believe how much access they had.
Is there a benefit to your officers as well?
Absolutely, all of the employees recognize that these participants are taking the time and effort to see for themselves what it takes to do the job, and they are usually very excited to be involved with the class. The participants are typically very grateful to the employees for the experience and very appreciative of the job they do. Many of these deputies don’t get a lot of positive reinforcement and positive feedback from the community on the job, so they appreciate it a great deal.
How often do you offer the program and how long does it last?
We offer the program twice a year, in the spring and fall. The program lasts twelve weeks, with class every Tuesday night from 6-9pm.
Who can participate?
Participants must be residents of St. Johns County and be at least 21 years of age. Participants must be able to pass a background check prior to participation.