In a very short period of time, the law enforcement academy at Ogeechee Technical College has made a significant positive impact within the local law enforcement community, turning out sought after graduates that are trained and ready to go.
According to Mike Russell, Georgia Southern University's director of public safety, his department has hired several OTC law enforcement academy graduates.
"These graduates come out very well prepared, well schooled, and are able to write good reports," he said. "They are trained when they get here, so we don't have to send them to Savannah to attend a ten and a half week program which also includes the cost of transportation and lodging. They do field training with us for six to eight weeks, and then are ready to go. It saves the department in both time and money."
In 2008, Georgia technical colleges competed for six pilot (trial) police academies that would be located on college campuses. The concept was modeled after Florida and North Carolina who only do basic police training on community college campuses. OTC was one of the six schools selected and began operations at its Claxton facility in January of 2009.
"We offer 700 hours of basic academy training as compared to the traditional 408," said J. Greg Rabeler, director of the Law Enforcement Academy. "Students receive college credit for their training. That credit could be applied toward a two year associates degree in criminal justice at any technical college."
Rabeler said OTC conducts three academies a year, and have just started the college's ninth class.
"We have graduated 95 students thus far and have a 90% plus employment rate," he said. "We are presently a fully POST certified police academy and may offer the same training as any traditional academy. In addition to basic law enforcement training we will offer many advanced law enforcement training courses to certified police officers."
Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson said OTC's law enforcement program has been highly beneficial to his department.
"We have waited 16 years to get (such a program) here," he said. "The program has done way better than we imagined regarding the caliber of training and personnel."
The sheriff's department has had two deputies recently graduate from the program, and several have been enrolled. The program "offers extra training that regular police academy does not," he said.
Instead of 40 hours as required, the OTC program finishes graduates with 80 hours of firearms training and emergency vehicle operations. It also offers defensive tactics training and the exercises are held at the Claxton OTC facility as opposed to Forsyth, which makes it easier on local officers, he said.
The OTC program also includes Taser certification and field sobriety training, whole graduates from other police academy sources must take additional courses. A graduate from OTC "comes out and he's ready to go," Anderson said.
Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner agrees.
"The OTC Law Enforcement program has been highly beneficial," he said. "We have had graduates from that program who have an additional four weeks of training."
Hiring from the pool of OTC graduates means candidates "are usually local," he said. "We prefer to hire out of that program because of that - we get people from our own back yard. That has been a big plus." The Statesboro Police Department has hired "at least four" officers from the program. "I think it is a great program and we fully support it."
Scotti Sanford graduated from the program and works as a law enforcement officer at Georgia Southern.
"I am very happy to see that the academy is doing well, and only getting stronger within the law enforcement community," he said. "At Georgia Southern, OTC graduates have been officer of the month for each month in 2011 so far. I am very proud of that."
Herald reporter Holli Deal Bragg contributed to this story.