This week the LaGrange Police Department Citizen’s Police Academy visited two places that most local citizens have never seen or never want to see from the inside. The class went on guided tours of the Troup County 911 Center and the Troup County Jail. The evening started off at the LaGrange Police Department, where the class was escorted over to the bottom floor of the Troup County Government Center, which houses the 911 dispatch office.
The 911 office feels like a military bunker. Some of that is out of convenience and some of it is by design. The small office sits at the bottom of the government center and may be one of the safest places in Troup County in the event of an emergency.
The office is locked and secured away from the public to protect sensitive information inside. Authorities are also acutely aware of the problems that would occur if, heaven forbid, the office be taken over by those with ill intent.
Five dispatchers work the office for all of Troup County. Individual dispatchers are assigned to LaGrange Police, the Sheriff’s Department, the fire department, and medical emergencies. A supervisor also helps with calls and gives the dispatchers breaks.
The job sometimes makes the dispatchers feel separated from the outside world.
“We often can’t help but get emotionally invested in the calls we take. We guide victims though some of the most harrowing moments of their lives, but when help arrives, the calls hang up and we’re left wondering if they are okay,” said one dispatcher. “They don’t often call back and say everything is fine,” she joked.
They also get a great number of calls from young children playing with the phone when their parents aren’t watching. Those calls are often cute, said another dispatcher, but they can take up an emergency line. Adults also sometimes make those calls, but those they don’t find cute. Dispatchers warn them to stop calling and when they refuse, they get a visit from police.
Next up for the evening was a guided tour of the Troup County Jail, given by jail supervisor Capt. Marty Reeves.
Reeves started out the tour showing the class numerous pieces of contraband they have recovered over the years. The contraband ranged from arts & crafts items made with food wrappers to deadly weapons.
The inmates are surprisingly clever with their creations. Jailers have discovered everything from electric water boilers to powered tattoo machines. The inmates make these items by breaking anything that they can get their hands on.
These broken items cost a lot of money too. The sheriff’s office has to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to replace lights and doors broken by inmates. That’s not the only thing Troup County citizens are paying for. The sheriff’s office has to pay more than a million dollars each year in medical expenses for inmates.
The tour gave a stark look at life inside a jail. It’s not as pleasant as some would have you believe. Some people think that prisoners have it too good, and maybe they do, but life inside any jail is a horrible, scary experience.
Reeves noted that they simply don’t have the manpower to prevent all violent incidents. Inmates are going to fight in jail and the weak get the brunt of it.
It’s not an easy experience for jailers either. New recruits often decide the work is not for them within the first few weeks inside the jail. Violent incidents inside the jail are unavoidable and some people just can’t handle it.
For those who can take it, there’s the chance to move up the ranks to become a deputy, but even then the work is far too dangerous for the pay received.
The author of this article can be reached via email at tmurphy@ troupcountynews. net.