UNION COUNTY, N.C. — For two hours each Thursday night this fall, a dozen Union County residents are getting a behind-the-scenes look at the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

The 11-week citizens academy is meant to show members of the public the ins and outs of the office.

This is the first year the sheriff’s office has conducted the academy, which will finish classes in December. 


What You Need To Know

UCSO launched the citizens academy this year

The 11-week course gives an inside look at a variety of law enforcement procedures

Deputies hope it helps foster understanding, build relationships and aid recruiting


The classes cover everything from the civil court process to use of force procedure.

E. Marie Holt, an enrollee in the first class, said this is her third time completing a citizens academy. Before moving to Union County, she completed one with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.

Holt said completing the academy gives people like her a better understanding of law enforcement.

“Well that and I feel like, doing these academies, we then become spokespersons for these jurisdictions and the departments or offices that we are with,” Holt said during a tour of the courthouse.

Holt’s reaction is what deputies are hoping for with the academy. Nine-year deputy Lt. James Maye said the sheriff’s office launched the academy this year to involve the community.

“When these folks graduate from our program, that they take the things that they’ve learned and explain to the other people in the public that, some things are not like they are on TV. Some things are not as simple as they may seem. Law enforcement officers have a difficult job, a very intricate job that requires a lot of planning, training and dedication,” Maye said.

Maye and other deputies hope to enroll about 12 to 15 applicants with each class, and the academy is already set to continue next year. 

The lieutenant added the academy aims to accomplish three goals.

“We want all three, we want them to be informed, we want them to advocate for us on the front lines with our community, and we also want them to refer their friends and family to come join our team, come join our family,” Maye said.

Holt said her interest in the workings of law enforcement comes from her dad’s career in New York.

“When we lived in Charlotte we did the citizens academy for the CMPD and also for the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, and we found it very interesting, and we were interested in those. My father was a sheriff’s officer up in New York state. And then, moving to Union County, we wanted to see what was similar, what was different,” Holt added.

To enroll in the academy you need to live in Union County, complete an application, pass a background check and sign a liability waiver.

The 11-week course includes tours of the courthouse, animal control, jail and other law enforcement facilities. It also includes demonstrations of traffic stops, K9 operations and the special response team.