Savannah Technical College will be one of six sites for a pilot program to establish new basic law enforcement academies.
Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson has announced a pilot project that will allow new law enforcement officers to receive their basic law enforcement training at a state technical college and obtain college credit at the same time.
“The Peace Officer Academy at Savannah Technical College is a true partnership effort between the college and our regional law enforcement agencies,” said STC President C. B. Rathburn. “I especially want to thank Chief (Michael) Berkow of Savannah-Chatham Metro Police and Chatham County Sheriff (Al) St. Lawrence for their efforts. We are proud to have been chosen as one of the six sites in the state for this activity. I’m certain that the strong support we’ve received from Savannah-Chatham, Bryan, Effingham and Liberty law enforcement was a factor in our proposal moving forward.”
The Peace Officer Academy at Savannah Technical College will initially take in a cohort of around 35 students for 16 weeks of training. At the end of the program, graduates will be certified peace officers and will have one year of transferable college credit.
“This program will ensure that there is a stronger labor pool for local law enforcement,” said Vic Burke, department head and instructor of criminal justice. “As a former police chief, I know first-hand that this kind of training opportunity is something that has been needed in our area for some time. With attrition and turnover averaging 15-20 percent each year among officers nationwide, we know that there is an ongoing need for officers on the street.”
The project is a collaboration between the TCSG, the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC), headed by Director Dale Mann, and the state Peace Officers Standards and Training Council (POST), led by Executive Director Ken Vance.
The pilot program also has the endorsement of the state Board of Public Safety, which has been working steadily over the past year to craft a long-range solution to the need for more space for training of the state’s law enforcement officers.
Under the Basic Law Enforcement Academies Pilot Project, trainees will receive a technical certificate of credit (TCC) after completion of the program. With the TCC in hand, the new law enforcement officers can choose to continue their education toward a degree in criminal justice.
Six technical colleges will participate in the pilot that is set to begin in January: Augusta Tech, Coosa Valley Tech, DeKalb Tech, Ogeechee Tech, Savannah Tech and South Georgia Tech. Classes will begin in January and applications will be accepted Sept. 1–Oct. 15.
Expansion of the program to more of the state technical colleges is possible as the program is evaluated for its level of success. There are 33 colleges in the Technical College System of Georgia.
“This is a win-win-win proposition for the technical colleges, law enforcement and, most of all, the safety of our citizens,” said Jackson. “This new plan opens the door for every trainee to utilize their basic training as part of a seamless education process toward a two-year degree in criminal justice.”
Most trainees, as a student enrolled in college credit courses, will be eligible to receive Georgia HOPE grants and federal Pell grants that will offset the cost of their technical college education.
In order to create the program, the development team of TCSG, GPSTC, POST and regional law enforcement academy personnel completed a comparison of curriculum between existing TCSG criminal justice courses and POST Basic Mandate Training. The result showed that a large segment of the basic training content was already being offered in the technical colleges’ criminal justice programs.
In order to fulfill all of the remaining requirements of the state’s Basic Mandate Training, like firearms and driving, the team will incorporate eight additional components into the technical college program over the next six months.
Admission standards will require all students to undergo a thorough background check and adhere to all rules as set forth by the state POST Council. Students will also have to meet minimum scores in English, reading and math.
All of the technical college teachers involved in the program will be POST-certified instructors.
“It makes sense to pursue a model like we already have for EMTs, who get their training at a state technical college then come back with their credentials in hand and ready to go to work,” said Mann. “This pilot project has the potential to transform Georgia’s basic law enforcement training system to a new era. In doing so, we’re setting higher standards and parameters for better-trained law enforcement officers and safer communities throughout the state.”
Similar programs already exist in neighboring states like North Carolina and Florida, where 41 of that state’s criminal justice training sites are located in their community colleges and technical institutes.