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Ferguson holds sixth citizens’ academy

The Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will hold its sixth annual citizens’ academy this March, and the deadline for applications is Feb. 22.

The citizens’ academy is open to those that are 18 years old or older, and it will feature eight different sessions throughout the month. The first session is March 1.

“I’m one of five elected constitutional officers elected by the people of Suffolk,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson. “I think it’s important that the public at large know what the people they elect do.”

During the academy, citizens will learn about a plethora of topics, including general crimes, child abuse crimes, victim and witness services and more. These classes are run by those that work in Ferguson’s office and deal directly with the topics they discuss.

“This is the real world as it really occurs. It’s not sensationalized. This is the reality of what we generally do every day,” Ferguson said. “You see so many things in 10-second sound bites that talk about the criminal justice system, but we are going into more depth on the topics.”

The academy is usually held in the fall but had to be rescheduled last year.

Participants will also have the chance to learn about the four other constitutional offices — sheriff, clerk of the court, commissioner of the revenue and treasurer. Each of the offices has a chance to give participants an idea of how the department is run towards the end of the program. The sheriff also includes a tour of the courthouse.

Every year, the topics stay about the same, but the attorney’s office takes participants’ suggestions into account when planning the schedule. This year, the topic of domestic violence will have its own night, largely in part to participants wanting more information last year.

Despite the topics staying the same, people have come back year after year to participate in the academy. Some citizens have left learning new things despite already taking the class, Ferguson said.

The program will meet every Tuesday and Thursday throughout March, concluding March 29 with a graduation and reception. Classes run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and are held in the jury room in the courthouse, which is located at 150 N. Main St.

Every citizen must apply to join the academy, and when applying, citizens have to agree to a background check. Applicants are approved on a case-by-case basis, depending on their background check results.

Applications can be filled out online on the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s website. Joan Turner, community outreach coordinator, can be contacted directly at 514-4379.