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Inspiring Start to My Time in Sheriff's Citizens Academy

On Day 1 at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Citizens Academy, Maj. Wayne Morris said his expectations for patrol deputies are simple: "I expect you to go home at night."

The law enforcement officer told me in a loud, clear voice to hold my name card up for a mugshot.

I debated smiling and then regretted not wearing makeup. 

But I shirked it off and compromised with a half smile so my teeth didn't show. 

In all honesty, I was excited. This was something I've been wanting to do for more than a year.

Posing for my ID card photo made my first day official: I am part of the 33rd class of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office's Citizens Academy.

I will spend the next 11 weeks learning more about what goes into being a Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy.

The three-month program offers a behind-the-scenes look inside the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. It is open to eligible, adult members of the community and is free of charge. (More criteria here.)

After the introductions were out of the way on my first day, members of the executive staff took turns explaining the role each of their branches play in the day-to-day security of our county.

I was instantly fascinated, even inspired, by the passion of the executive staff members, especially Maj. Wayne Morris, who serves as the commander of the Patrol Operations Bureau (and is, coincidentally, an active member of in my wonderful town of Dunedin).

Morris said when he trains his patrol deputies, he sets his expectations right up front. His No. 1 rule is simple: "I expect you to go home at night."

All 20-plus classmates were dead silent. His words hung in the air for a moment. They were a sobering reminder of the daily risk his patrol deputies take ensuring our safety. 

Morris later added that he trains his patrol deputies not to judge when they encounter a citizen who is upset. They could be having the worst day of their life, he said. Maybe they lost a child, maybe their child's bike was stolen — maybe they spent their life savings on that bike.

It's the deputy's goal, he said, to "turn each citizen encounter into a win ... to be the best part of their worst day."

It's hard not to leave inspired after that.

On the Docket: I get my ID badge. Also, a closer look at what Morris was talking about in the Patrol Operations Bureau. I can't wait!

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