Giving Back: Sheriff’s Office opens up communication with public

Published 11:55 pm Tuesday, February 10, 2015

By Stephen Hemelt

HAHNVILLE — Victor Buccola has always been interested in law enforcement, so he was particularly interested when the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office announced in 2012 plans for its inaugural Citizen’s Academy.

“There are a lot of inner workings (the Sheriff’s Office does) that the average person doesn’t know about,” Buccola said. “Being a taxpayer who helps fund law enforcement, I was curious to know what are they spending my money on? How are they using it?”

Buccola said he was so impressed with the process he encouraged his wife to participate in the Academy last year, and he joined her to attend for a second time himself.

“They’re willing to answer any and all of your questions at the Academy,” Buccola said. “The fact that we have a low violent crime rate in the parish tells me they are doing something right, but unfortunately, there is a lot of petty crime that takes place that they are not always there to catch. I was curious to know what they are doing, how they are being proactive in catching the bad guys. It was an opportunity to gain insight on what they do and how they do it.”

It’s an opportunity he recommends more St. Charles Parish residents take advantage of, and one Sheriff’s Office leaders heavily promote.

The fourth annual Citizen’s Academy, a nine-week course, begins Feb. 25. Residents who sign up are guaranteed, law enforcement leaders say, a closer look at how 21st Century police work is done, from forensics to school security.

Interested residents must fill out a short application at, pass a background check and commit to attending all nine of the weekly classes, which are scheduled weekly from 5:45 to 9 p.m.

Attendees must live or work in St. Charles Parish to qualify.

Course topics include sessions on the Criminal Investigation Bureau, Special Response Teams and K-9 units. Attendees also receive a look inside the Nelson Coleman Correctional Center and Firing Range.

Sheriff Greg Champagne said the benefits of the Academy are not just for the residents, as the Sheriff’s Office’s network grows each time a successful class is held.

“If citizens have a better understanding of what we do and why, they are in a better position to help us keep our community safe,” Champagne said.

Buccola, who lives in Destrehan, said the Academy helps connect law enforcement officers to community members, breaking down barriers and increasing the lines of communication.

Buccola said residents must have faith in the Sheriff’s Office because deputies are working to serve and help.

“I live on a dead-end street,” he said. “Whenever I’m home and I see a Sheriff’s Office car come down my street, I go out there just to tell them ‘thank you’ for coming by. They are a dedicated bunch of people. It’s very risky. I appreciate what they do, and I think people should appreciate what they do more. There are a lot of people out there who are grateful and who just want to have a peaceful existence in the community.”