Note: The Citizen’s Police Academy will be a 10 week series running through November. As such, Troup County News will be writing for all 10 weeks and providing an insight into what the program is and all of the tasks associated with the lives of law enforcement officers. This piece will be informative and reflective on the law and everyone who works so very hard to uphold it.
For more than 30 years, the City of LaGrange has offered a special class, a class that brings the average citizen into the world of law enforcement and shows them the dayto- day process. The Citizen’s Police Academy is an incredible service and shows great insight into the lives of a group that are often lampooned in the news and unjustly attacked for no reason at all. To dedicate your life to a job of danger and maliciousness takes a special kind of person, someone who truly cares about his or her community and the people that live there.
The class’s two main teachers, Senior Police Officer Jim Davidson and Lieutenant Eric Lohr, are both dedicated civil servants with a passion for people and the safety of all of those in this community. More so than the actual enforcing of law, these men deal with many community outreach programs where they can interact with many people who want to know more about their world behind a badge and patrol car. With so much division and hatred all over the news and today’s media, officers are under heavy fire. However, in this community law enforcement has a strong show of support, and that is a great mindset to have when beginning a class such as this.
The LaGrange Police Department is one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the state of Georgia. Since 1999, LPD has been accredited five separate times by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA). Whereas, the state of Georgia only requires their officers to have 20 hours of training, here in LaGrange the average amount of time is 80 hours of training. In 2015, officers with the LaGrange Police Department averaged over 15,000 hours of training. In 2015, LPD responded to 52,192 calls of service. Out of that, 4,937 arrests were made and out of those, only 45 ended with a use of force, an average of only .91%. Another surprising statistic that officers shared was the fact that here in LaGrange last year, there were over 2,300 wrecks with only four deaths on average.
LPD is also very high on professionalism and holds their officers to an exceptional standard. For well over 10 years now, the department has had body recorder cameras that the officers are required to wear at every single traffic stop, wreck, and citizen interaction. In fact, one of the two surefire ways to receive an automatic eight hour suspension is forgetting to turn on your recorder, that and cursing. Officers are also trying to dispel some of the misconceptions that they are accustomed to dealing with on a daily basis. For example, 90% of the time officers do not have to protect the law. A majority of the time they are putting their mind to problem solving and reaching out to the community.
On this particular night, two of the main divisions would be discussed, the Patrol and CIS Divisions. The Patrol Division is the largest part of the agency and consists of each uniformed unit within the Department. They work in things such as Canine, Traffic Enforcement, Field Training, Bicycle Patrol, and Crime Suppression. The CIS or Criminal Investigation Section is the unit that follows behind the ground work laid by the Patrol Division and tries to obtain further evidence. This is where many of your forensics and things of that nature come from. Additionally, they deal with many phone scams, fraud cases, and other money laundering schemes. There are many different divisions, positions, and units that make up a healthy police department and bring about an appreciation and respect for the law.
Here in this first week of class, two things are very apparent: the dedication of officers to make other understand their work and the appreciation of citizens who truly care about law enforcement. This class holds faces old and new to the program. There is a fair assessment that there is some skepticism involved as people want to truly understand the way this world works – and why not, after all?
There is a cavalcade of personalities and ideologies in this community. There will be lessons learned, questions asked, and 10 weeks of seeing the world through a different set of eyes. The one sure thing is that places like Ferguson and Baltimore are an anomaly as there is a guaranteed and protected reverence here in our community for these men and women. There is no loss of appreciation or respect, even when and if there is a misunderstanding. Working together is the only way to take away stigmas and to begin spreading a positive mindset throughout LaGrange and beyond its borders.
Jeremy Andrews Staff Writer