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Participants complete sheriff's citizens academy

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Members of the inaugural S.H.I.N.E. citizens police academy are joined by state Court of Appeals Judge Reuben F. Young and Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson following the completion of the eight-week program.

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BY JOHN H. WALKER
Staff Writer

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Eight weeks of learning the ins and outs of the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office came to a close Thursday when the 21 class members were presented Certificates of Completion by Sheriff Clee Atkinson and Judge Reuben F. Young.

Young was the keynote speaker at the ceremony, held at the ECSO Training Center near Pinetops. On April 15, Young was named to the state Court of Appeals by Gov. Roy Cooper. He had been serving as interim deputy secretary of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice.

"You probably have had your eyes and heart opened to what law enforcement officers do on a daily basis," he said.

Young, who said he learned from his minister father that, "There is no calling greater than public service," told graduates their guests and deputies and staff, "We are all safer because of the actions law enforcement have taken and because of the job they do and the dangers they face. Llaw enforcement deserves the benefit of the doubt."

"We all make choices and we all choose the path we go down,” he said. "Of every decision, there is a consequence. Every statement carries a message. Each time we talk, we need to be considerate.”

Young drew on agricultural scientist and inventor George Washington Carver to remind the class about attitude and approach to others.

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong,” he said. “Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these."

He finished by challenging the class to leave and tell others what they learned and what law enforcement officers do.

"It is your duty and obligation for having this opportunity to share it with friends and family and encourage them," he said.

Following Young's message, Atkinson said "Twenty years ago, he (Young) observed us and taught how we did things right ... and he taught us how we did things wrong."

Atkinson told class participants that members of the agency had doubts at first about the program and that, just like the participants themselves, didn't know what to expect.

"But you challenged us,” he said. “We told you to ask questions and you did. There were times we came back (after a class) and talked about (what you asked). You caused us to change things. You guys were policy changers."

Class member Kathy Williams of Tarboro said, "I thought it (program) was great. I had a ball. It was fun and we learned a lot. It has been a very informative program and I think more people should participate."

Her classmate, David Diggs, of Kingsboro, agreed.

"I think it was great, It was fun and it was a learning experience,” he said. “I think the students and (sheriff's office) participants all enjoyed it and learned (from it)."

Diggs echoed Young in that he said, "We (class participants) need to talk about it and let everybody know about the program and what we've got in the Sheriff's Office."

Diggs said based on the program, "I've told kids that they need to take a different path. We don't need to lose any more of our young, black men."

He said he would definitely repeat the class.

Donald Boswell, of Rocky Mount, one of two Edgecombe County commissioners to accept invitations to participate in the class — Evelyn Powell was the other — told Atkinson, "You did a great job."

Afterward, he added to another participant, "Folks need to take this class."

Bernice Anderson of Pinetops, who shot a weapon for the first time in her life during a Saturday session, said, "I loved it. This was so informative and educational. It was eye-opening."

Atkinson said the second edition of S.H.I.N.E. is tentatively scheduled for February 2020.

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