Academy gives residents up close law education

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 8, 2003

They came with a limited knowledge of the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office. They left Thursday night as graduates of the Citizen's Police Academy.

Each left more appreciative of what law enforcement officers contend with in their line of work and more aware of the laws that both protect and punish members of society.

Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton organized the Citizen's Police Academy to give private citizens first-hand knowledge of how the criminal justice system works and how a law enforcement agency operates.

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During the course, the 14 class members heard Sexton explain his responsibilities as sheriff, how a criminal investigation is handled and how the sheriff's office is funded. They also got a lesson in the difficulties Sexton encounters in balancing a tight budget and providing service to a county as large as Lawrence County.

"With the number of cases they have and the number of inmates in our jail, it's quite a load they have for the small number of deputies," Chesapeake resident James Boggs said. "I think the size of the force needs to be increased."

"I respect everyone of them," agreed Kenny Ramey of Burlington.

They met both Lawrence County Common Pleas Judges Richard Walton and Frank McCown, who explained what happens once a case moves to the judicial arena.

"The part I find frightening is how many rights criminals have and how few law enforcement has. There's too much done to protect people who have been convicted of a crime," Ironton resident George Sisler said.

They toured both the Lawrence County Jail and the Federal Correctional Institute at Summit, Ky. -- an experience that left one student amazed and another disgusted.

"They have putt putt golf, tennis courts. They have jazzercize. I was surprised they had all those things," Jane Griffith of Ironton said. "I thought prison was supposed to be punishment."

"The federal prison is a joke," Pedro resident Trena Henderson said. "I thought about it the other day and got mad all over again."

The differences between the county's overcrowded, underfunded facility and the ultra-modern federal prison were not lost on class members, who praised Sexton for making the best with limited resources.

"This jail here (the Lawrence County Jail) needs more space," Janice Akers said. "Its unbelievable the people they have in there."

"We looked at what Sheriff Sexton has to deal with and it's unbelievable," Griffith said. "It's old. He needs help."

The class members also got the chance to visit the sheriff's office firing range and ride along with a deputy for a shift, to see first-hand what a day in the life of a sheriff's deputy is really like.

"Anyone in the county who doubts the sheriff's office is doing a good job should take this class," Sisler said. "They'll learn what the situation really is."