Kori Sears has wanted to be a law enforcement officer since she was a child watching dashboard video of her father’s first chase.
“It was exciting,” Sears said.
The 22-year-old daughter of a Camden County sheriff’s lieutenant has worked her way up from the department’s front desk to become a corrections officer in the jail.
She currently is training for patrol with more than five dozen other recruits enrolled in the new law enforcement academy at Middle Georgia State College.
The cadets marched along the running track of Middle Georgia State College shortly after sunrise Wednesday.
Uniformly dressed in navy blue shorts and T-shirts, they stepped in cadence as track regulars were taking their morning walks and jogs.
“We’re just trying to get their blood going this morning,” said Capt. Max Justice, an instructor with the new Georgia Public Safety Training Center Bibb.
The west Macon campus is the newest location for GPSTC’s Basic Training Division, which equips law enforcement recruits with skills needed for the job.
“There’s a whole lot more to training police officers than getting out here in gym shorts and blowing a whistle,” said Maj. Mike Barton, manager of GPSTC Bibb.
“You can teach anyone to shoot. The hard part is teaching them when and when not to shoot.”
Fayette County Sheriff’s Office detention officer Nicholas Middleton has experience with firearms. He spent six years in the Marines before getting his criminal justice degree.
“It’s been the path I’ve been on since I was a little kid playing cops and robbers in the backyard and laser tag,” Middleton said.
As a cadet, his current studies are far from child’s play.
“There’s not enough time in the day to absorb everything you’ve learned that day,” Middleton said.
Training is intense, Sears said.
“You’re trying to pack in a whole career in 11 weeks,” she said.
The academy is leasing offices, classrooms and training rooms in the college’s old Wellness Center that closed in April when the new fitness building opened.
Barton said after the Bibb academy was approved, Middle Georgia State scrambled with only two weeks to prepare, but made it happen.
“I’ve seen staff members carrying tables out of here and everything,” Barton said while standing in the lobby of the building now known as the Community Education Center.
Not only will new recruits train there, but continuing education classes will be provided for current peace officers.
Nancy Stroud, Middle Georgia State’s vice president for fiscal affairs, said making use of the old space makes sense.
“This is a partnership that creates revenue for the college and gives new life to space that would otherwise be unused,” Stroud said in a college news release. “The police officer cadets will be eating in the cafeteria, buying things in the bookstore and serving as an inspirational and positive presence for our students. It’s a win-win.”
The college also is working with GPSTC to develop an associate’s degree in public safety that could be offered through a blend of online and conventional classes.
Extending the partnership through Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert and Bibb County Sheriff David Davis will mean future students could use the county’s firing range and other training facilities.
The academy plans a grand opening ceremony Tuesday.
Then in about seven weeks, the cadets will graduate at the GPSTC in Forsyth.
Barton always wishes he had more time with the officers who are willing to put their lives on the line.
“Our job goes from pure, sheer boredom to stark terror in about 30 seconds flat on any given day,” he said. “It’s more than just a job. It’s a commitment.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.