Training To Protect and To Serve

The nationally accredited Georgia Piedmont Technical College Law Enforcement Academy features a 17-week course designed to turn out better-prepared police officers. Roughly 500 students have come through the program since its inception in 2009.

by Michelle Floyd

Taylor Webb credits a police academy in Covington with saving his life—literally. Webb, who currently works for the Henry County Police Department, attended Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s Law Enforcement Academy in 2010. Some nine years later, he was involved in a life-threatening SWAT situation. 

“Some of the training they offer is why I’m still alive right now,” said Webb, who was shot in the chest and hip during a standoff, his body still housing one of the bullets. “Everything I learned there I’ve used.”

City of Conyers police officer Quantavis Garcia

Webb, a Conyers native, returned to work following the April 2019 incident but continues physical therapy and personal training in a bid to regain some of the strength he lost in the shooting. When he signed up for the program after being in the construction business for a few years, he admits he had no idea the depths to which the instruction would go. The 17-week course trains students in physical tasks, educates them about laws and situations they may encounter in the line of duty, introduces them to members of law enforcement and the court system and exposes them to serious scenarios and images they might observe in the field.

“You have to know what you’re doing,” said Webb, who conceded that law enforcement jobs are stressful. “You can’t just call your sergeant when you run into something on the road. You have to understand what you can and can’t do and be able to think for yourself.”

“This is a job you have to want to do. It’s not a career for everybody. It’s a very fulfilling career, but you have to have a passion and want to do this job.”

Georgia Piedmont Technical College Law Enforcement Academy Director Maj. Harry McCann

The academy was the first and remains the only law enforcement academy in Georgia to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Upon completion of the program, graduates receive their Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training POST certification, along with 42 college credits toward a criminal justice degree.

“My hope when we started [in 2009] was to help raise standards in law enforcement in the state of Georgia, to go to higher training standards and turn out a better-prepared police officer,” said Maj. Harry McCann, director of the academy and a law enforcement officer since 1993. “This is a job you have to want to do. It’s not a career for everybody. It’s a very fulfilling career, but you have to have a passion and want to do this job.”

GPTC Law Enforcement Academy instructor Gene McKinney teaches the fall 2019 class

Roughly 500 students have come through the program since inception, from Newton, Walton, Rockdale and Morgan counties all the way to Warner Robins and cities in North Georgia.

“When you’re in it, it sucks,” said Katie Stoltz, who currently works road patrol for the Conyers Police Department, “but when you’re out of it, you’re grateful for the opportunity you got. When you get done, you will be incredibly proud of what you did there.”

Aside from getting access to people and resources around the state that help law enforcement officers do their jobs, Stoltz revealed that she learned how to put personal feelings aside to attack any situation and also to have positive self-talks, which help affect the rest of the work day.

“Everything has a point—there’s a reason behind it,” Stoltz said. “You might not know it [during the class], but one day, you will.”

Quantavis Garcia, a detective for the Conyers Police Department, cited the program’s willingness to teach students how to properly handle everyday situations, like conducting search warrants. He also likes that it puts prospective officers in scenarios on which they are critiqued to help them improve once they are in the field. He believes that limiting the class size to around 20 students, not all of whom make it out of the program, aids in forming a close-knit group while they pursue their goals.

“[Being in law enforcement] has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I can’t remember wanting to be anything else,” Garcia said. “Don’t do it for the money; do it because it’s a God-given gift to you.”

Qualified candidates in the Georgia Piedmont Technical College Law Enforcement Academy are eligible for both the HOPE Scholarship and Pell grants. 

“The purpose of the Law Enforcement Academy is twofold, but it follows the same mission as the rest of our college,” said Jana Wiggins, executive director of marketing and communications at GPTC. “First, we want to give aspiring officers the training and tools they need to be effective in a very difficult, high-pressure job in public safety. Second, we want to provide highly trained and skilled candidates for the many law enforcement agencies and departments in our region and state. 

“For us, it’s about preparing the workforce and meeting the needs of employers,” she added, “and I think the fact that the vast majority of our program cadets every semester have jobs waiting for them immediately upon graduation shows that we are doing just that.” 

For more information on the Law Enforcement Academy at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, visit gptc.edu/LEA.

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