The Eastern Panhandle Deputy Sheriff's Reserve Training Academy, formerly known as the Jefferson County Reserve Academy, continues to expand. Currently in the midst of a training session, 23 cadets met Saturday in Bardane for a variety of hands-on training maneuvers.
Reserves from Jefferson, Berkely, Morgan, Hancock and Clay counties are enrolled in the current Academy class. The training Saturday marked their sixth week of meeting each weekend for standardized training. The group looks forward to graduation ceremony in August.
The Academy, the only one of its kind in West Virginia, provides over 150 hours of training for the Reservists who attend. Cpl. Ben Williams, supervising deputy for the program, has explained that the reservists assist the police officers of their county with a variety of duties.
"They will assist with community events including the fair, the Arts and Crafts festival and other large events," he said. "They will also assist with traffic accidents, policing and arrests. These men and women will be an extra set of eyes and ears on the ground," Williams said.
The overall goal of the Deputy Sheriff Reserve Academy Program is to provide each reserve deputy with formal standardized training through which he/she becomes fully trained and capable of performing Reserve Deputy functions; in addition the Academy Program creates a cohesive working relationship between reserve deputies, deputies and all other law enforcement agencies in the State of West Virginia.
The idea of an academy came about because reservists in the past have been trained in an unorganized manner based on time constraints and availability. While each received training from a certified officer, the timeline varied with each individual.
Williams said, "As law enforcement officers in West Virginia, we all attend the same police academy. This Reserve Academy lends the same type of consistency to the training."
The Academy has received statewide recognition and support. Sen. John Unger now serves as the Jefferson County department's chaplain and is currently a member of the ongoing training class.
"I thought it was important that I go through the class so I see hwat happens to those I could counsel," Unger said. "It's dangerous on the streets," he continued. "I need to know what to expect just as the other officers do."
The candidates involved in the field maneuvers Saturday learned a variety of techniques including how to search someone and how to react at a hit and run scene. A surprise appearance of a firearm during one scenario had officers scrambling to react.
Chief Brian Peters, head of the Hancock County Reserves, shared that he has been doing the job for more than 22 years, however, he always learns something new.
"This standardized training puts everyone on the same page," Peters said. "It will enlighten our new guys on what to expect in potential life and death situations," he continued.
Four reservists travel each weekend for the training in Jefferson County. The trip is over four hours, but of great benefit to them, Peters said.
More information can be found on the Academy's website at www.jcdsr.org/academy.