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Crimestalkers of the Lowcountry

On some kind of mission to validate my obsession with cop shows and crime thrillers, I jumped at the chance to attend an eight-week ‘Citizen’s Police Academy’ put on by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

I figured, yeah, I’d be one of about five people there.

When I got there at six on the dot, all seats were taken in a room that held about 40 people! The uniformed instructor noticed my wide-eyed hesitation and motioned me to the front. He pulled a chair out of thin air and shoved it at me. I sat.

The class lasts from 6-9 p.m. and there’s a break in between. During the break

I noticed not one person under 50, and most were over 65. So far we’ve covered Civil Process, Environmental Crimes, Training & Firearms Simulator. Also Domestic Violence, Juvenile Services and Crime Scene Investigation . . . and everyone’s favorite grisly thrill: Forensics.

I just want you to know that personally, I felt a tingle when standing within four inches of actual bloody clothes from a local crime hanging in the Sheriff’s Office investigative forensics area in their nifty little blood-drying machine. Did you know a haze of superglue whooshed onto a surface will reveal perfect fingerprints? No? Did you know that DNA evidence takes up to six months to process, and if it’s a complex murder and a rush is put on it, six weeks is pretty standard?

Well, now you and I both know. The crime shows lie to us. Crimes are NOT wrapped up in a box and tied with a bow by the end of one hour. I was told ‘The First 48’ is an accurate depiction of what actually happens, so I’ve added that show to my list. It’s a wonder I can even sleep at night.

I’ve met investigators (one looks and acts just like Donnie Wahlberg, who plays Danny on Blue Bloods, honest to God) and Lieutenant Colonels and School Resource Officers, Deputy Sheriffs and Sergeants and more.  One of our instructors was Lieutenant Colonel Baxley, who commandeered the massive emergency effort for the most devastating hurricane to hit Hilton Head Island in fifty years

– Hurricane Matthew. I wanted to hug him.

It’s made me wonder if I missed my calling. Visions of ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ or ‘Law and Order’ or ‘Criminal Minds’ roll through my head, only I’m the investigator catching all the bad guys.

I’m still a little dazed by the senior citizen preoccupation with this class. What is it that draws people to this stuff like flies to honey? Is it the fascination with the psychopathy of the serial killer? Is it the fight for justice? Is it our deep, overriding desire to see

wrongs in our own life fought for and corrected? Is it a hankering to figure out the mystery of a crime?

Well, okay, it’s probably because we are all retired, but still . . .

For me, I wanted to get scenes right in my books, but it’s become more than that. It’s filling some unsatiated desire of mine lurking in the background. It energizes me, empowers me. Is this weird?

One thing for sure, l feel privileged after listening to several of Beaufort County’s brightest and best teach a topic and spend time answering question after question. These men and women put their lives on the line every day, 24/7. I’m grateful they took time out of their hectic, stressful schedules to participate in the Citizen’s Academy.

Next week we learn about Professional Responsibility and Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events. (Insert wide-eyed emoji here.) And as a happy bonus, on Saturday we are all headed to Beaufort to the pistol range to get a tour, watch Special Ops in action and partake of some target practice.

Graduation is October 16, and Sheriff Tanner will present us with certificates. After graduation, we have the option to sign up for a ride-along with a patrol officer!

Be still my heart.


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