Brunswick County Sheriff's Office Citizens Academy
By Harry Blakeslee
We have several opportunities to meet the men and women of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office — at a stopped car along the road side, at the scene of a crime or warrant, or in the Citizens Academy, 12 sessions of education, orientation and tours covering the myriad of services provide by Sheriff John W. Ingram V. I recommend that last option. You will find Sheriff Ingram has thoroughly instilled in all his deputies and volunteers (more about these later) an overwhelming sense of community service, respect for all citizens, and professionalism.
As a member of the 30th Citizens’ Academy, my eyes were opened to the many, many activities provided by the BCSO, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. - one of only six recognized by this national organization in North Carolina.
We come to expect the traditional law enforcement services such as emergency management/911, traffic control, violent and property crimes investigation, the serving of civil and criminal warrants, and the operation of the county jail for the County’s total of 1,100 square miles. Though significant, these are not nearly all of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office programs. Others include:
School Resource Officers (31 of them)
DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) for students
a Deputy Cadet Program for high schoolers age 16-20
a Robust Drug Enforcement Unit
a Gang Unit
Project Lifesaver - wrist or ankle monitors for dementia patients
Are U OK ? – a daily phone call to check on designated persons
Rape Aggression Defense - a four-class program
Senior Citizens Academy – focused on self defense
Golf Cart inspections
Bank security training
Security Audits for churches
Neighborhood Watch training
Citizens Response to an Active Shooter classes
Lock up Litter – a citizens’ reporting device for observed litterers
Anchor Initiative – to combat the opioid epidemic by volunteered addicts.
Chaplains for deputies, and, if needed, for victims
Animal Protective Services
Another major part of BSCO is the K-9 Corp, comprised of 12 dogs and their handlers/partners. The group includes two bloodhounds and 10 specially-trained Belgium Malinois dogs. These special dogs have a couple of years pre-BSCO training and several months of orientation with their handler. BCSO service as a K-9 lasts on average 10 years. The dogs’ acute sense of smell is very valuable. Narcotics dogs recognize five smells, Explosive dogs recognize 32 smells and usually also the five drugs smells.
Our K-9 demonstration was very informative. A deputy dressed in a protective, padded suit and acted as an assailant. The K-9 was well-behaved, heeling typically. When the deputy commanded or the assailant attempted to assault the deputy, the K-9 attached and grabbe
d onto the assailant’s right arm. I asked how firmly the K-9 bit to hold on? Answer: the 35-45 pound K-9 will sink her/his teeth as far as they can. Even during the demonstration we were warned if/when approached by one of these K-9’s, stand still; if you run she/he will attack. I can guarantee our readers I would ALWAYS freeze.
Another major effort for the BCSO is marine patrol. The fleet includes two power boats and two jet skis. They patrol 200 square miles of waterways (the responsibility for which is shared with other state agencies such as Marine Fisheries) and share in escort duties for ships, including ammunition ships, into and out of the Wilmington and Sunny Point harbor terminals. BCSO’s marine responsibilities extend from the South Carolina line through the rivers and creeks up the Cape Fear River to Wilmington. More than occasionally they are called upon to assist the U.S. Coast Guard.
One of the most exciting demonstrations was from the BCSO SWAT team. We were treated – at a distance – to two demonstrations. The first was to extract a vehicle driver refusing to exit his vehicle. Fortunately, we had our ear plugs and we were about 50 yards away, because they tossed and ignited two flash-bang grenades. SERIOUSLY LOUD! That got the driver’s attention and he promptly evacuated his vehicle.
The second demonstration was to rescue an injured deputy who had escaped his vehicle and was under fire by three assailants. The SWAT team arrived and laid down withering fire on the assailants while first aid was given to the deputy, who was evacuated to the hospital.
The SWAT team is comprised of deputies with other, regular duties. After watching the SWAT team members, I was impressed with their hustle. Seeing them work in their 40-45 pound SWAT vests and considering their 10-15 pound belts, I was even more impressed with their physical conditioning. Forget that idea of the chubby law enforcement officers.
One more - of many - memorable experiences was the simulation of a crime scene. We were broken into four groups: crime scene, the lab, the alleged perpetrator, and the alleged victim. We performed separate, independent investigations and then re-convened to compare notes and the actual facts. The absence of facts from the victim and the alleged assailant was a challenge and helped us to understand the difficulty in solving crimes. The lab and crime scene findings do not lie.
Probably THE MOST IMPORTANT thing we learned in the Citizens Academy was of the BCSO volunteer program. Started in 2008, the program and its volunteers are on track to yield 36-38,000 volunteer hours in 2021. These volunteers do not perform as sworn deputies but still provide valuable activities, freeing up the sworn deputies to focus on patrol, enforcement, and investigative activities. The BCSO estimates that these 36-38,000 volunteer hours will save the Brunswick County taxpayers $1.5-1.8 million. As a taxpayer, I say Thank You, Volunteers !
I strongly recommend enrolling in an upcoming Citizens Academy. Unfortunately, there are but two per year and they are limited to 22-25 attendants each. BCSO is are now assembling academies for February and August 2022, so it’s time to get on the list.
If you want to appreciate the commitment of Sheriff Ingram and our deputies in BCSO, get involved as a volunteer.