Pilot program approved
DeKalb Tech to begin law enforcement academy

COVINGTON - DeKalb Technical College's Newton Center is one of the six technical colleges in Georgia approved for a pilot program to start a mandate law enforcement academy.

Earlier this month, the Technical College System of Georgia announced that DeKalb Tech, along with Augusta Tech, Coosa Valley Tech, Ogeechee Tech, Savannah Tech and South Georgia Tech, will participate in the pilot program.

The program is endorsed by the state Board of Public Safety and is a collaboration between TCSG, the Georgia Public Safety Training Center and the state Peace Officers Standards and Training Council.

"This is a win-win-win proposition for the technical colleges, law enforcement and, most of all, the safety of our citizens," TCSG Commissioner Ron Jackson said. "This new plan opens the door for every trainee to utilize their basic training as part of a seamless education process toward a two-year degree in criminal justice."

DeKalb Tech hopes to have its program set up in its Newton Center, located at 8100 Bob Williams Parkway in Covington, by January.

"We're taking baby steps," said Virgil Costley Jr., who helped start DTC's law enforcement program a few years ago.

He said the school plans to start with one class of 25 students completing the program, then add another class with about 50 students and continue to grow from there.

The program is open to individuals 18 and older who have a high school diploma or GED, Costley said.

"We're looking for people who are mature and really want to have a career in the area of law enforcement," he said. "We'll probably be serving two types of people - I think we'll get a lot of younger people and people who are changing careers."

The first class will take about 17 weeks and will include basic mandates, plus other essential areas such as criminal procedures, traffic stops, fire arms and emergency vehicle training, said Beverly Thomas, Newton's academy director.

"This is very needed in our community," Costley said. "It will help improve the quality of our law enforcement ... (and) the local community won't have to send them 30 to 40 miles away (to get mandate training)."

He said most area students now attend an academy in Athens, Clayton County or other areas with academies, which could have a waiting list of three to six months.

He said he hopes the Newton Center's academy can serve at least a 30-mile radius, including Newton, Rockdale, DeKalb, Walton and Morgan counties, as well as Barrow, Henry and Jasper counties.

"This is a growing area," he said, adding that many of the students who enroll in the academy could end up serving as law enforcement officers in the area.

Before the program is started, he said the college would like the community's help in funding and other areas.

So far, law enforcement agencies in Newton and Rockdale counties have provided officers to teach the classes and have given other resources, but Costley said the program's start-up costs are likely to reach nearly $500,000, which the college will have to come up with most or all of it on its own. Costs include building on some unused areas in the Newton Center, hiring more instructors and buying more than $30,000 in ammunition and at least six vehicles.

"You have to buy a lot of equipment," Costley said. "I hope there are government services and private industries here who can set something aside to help us. We know this is a rough time for everybody and that there's not enough money, but this is needed."

For more information about the program or the college, call the Newton Center at 770-786-9522, ext. 5000, or visit www.dekalbtech.org.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.