RINCON — Nineteen-year-old Garren Ballard is passionately following a blue trail blazed by his father.
Just one week after graduating from the Savannah Technical College Peace Officer Academy on March 26, Ballard, 19, went on patrol for the first time as a member of the Port Wentworth Police Department. His father, Gilbert, is the chief of the Garden City Police Department.
“This is a lifelong dream,” Garren said Friday. “Over the years, police work is what I’ve seen and what I’ve grown up with. It’s what I’ve wanted to do.”
Garren, a member of Effingham County High School’s class of 2020, said his father is a stellar role model. The elder Ballard has worked for the Garden City Police Department for 27 years, including the last three in the top spot.
“It’s great to have a daddy you can be proud of,” Garren said.
The pride is reciprocated.
“I’m very excited about (Garren’s) opportunity,” the chief said.
Garren said his mother, father and friends are concerned about his dangerous career choice but they have never discouraged it.
“They are very supportive,” he said. “They support my decision. They understand and they appreciated it.”
Garren expects his younger brother, Gavin, to don a badge one day soon, too. Gavin is a high school senior.
Despite the unfavorable opinion some people have of law enforcement officers, Garren has never had a second thought about his career choice. He intends to combat negative notions.
“I just think you need to be out there with the public so they understand (the role of the police),” he said. “You need that human connection. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing for my community.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve.”
Garren’s words sounded similar to his father’s.
“We know that some bad comes with the territory but we just have to hold our heads up and know that what we do does make a difference,” the elder Ballard said.
The chief said his lengthy law enforcement career has been rewarding and he hope his son’s is, too.
“We’ve been very blessed and, at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s really about,” the chief explained. “I’ve made the investment, I’ve made commitment and I’m in it for the long haul. It’s worked out and I’m very thankful for that — and again, blessed.
“I just hope Garren has the same opportunities.”
The Basic POST Certification Technical Certificate of Credit Garren at Savannah Tech earned provides students with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to become competent law enforcement officers. The 400-hour, 11-week cohort program includes classroom instruction pertaining to criminal justice theory and the prevailing principles of modern law enforcement, as well as practical application of pertinent enforcement skills. College coursework contains the entire Georgia Peace Officers Standards & Training (P.O.S.T.) Basic Law Enforcement Training Course so that successful completion of the program will qualify the student to be a state-certified peace officer.
To date, the program has graduated more than 400 P.O.S.T.-certified officers. Many candidates are in various stages of the application process with statewide agencies. Eight of the 10 candidates in Garren’s have been hired by area police departments. STC’s Peace Officer Academy has a 97 percent placement rate.
For more information about the Peace Officer Academy, visit www.savannahtech.edu/PeaceOfficerAcademy or contact the office at 912-443-5191 or firstname.lastname@example.org.