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Hitting the skids
Law enforcement academy recruits hone driving skills

LITHONIA - The first class of the Law Enforcement Academy at DeKalb Technical College is hitting the road this week.

The 13-member class is spending the week practicing driving skills at the driving range in Lithonia in preparation for the road test Friday.

The group worked Tuesday on skid training, using a car specially equipped to simulate skidding in a variety of situations, including hitting patches of ice.

"The skid car is set up to be susceptible to skidding," said Law Enforcement Academy instructor Lt. Harry McCann. "Through this training, the officer learns to drive to keep from skidding and how to recover from a skid."

Each member of the class had his or her turn behind the wheel of the car that sits on a base with two sets of smaller wheels. The driving instructor, who sat in the front passenger seat, controlled the hydraulics on the base to determine the amount of control he wanted the trainees to have. In other words, he could simulate loss of rear- or front-wheel drive, or even of all four wheels, putting the driver into a full spin out.

The driving instructor directed trainees as they drove through a series of cones set up on the driving range, at points telling them to make sharp turns and accelerate. He would depress an emergency button if the trainee lost control of the vehicle.

Class members conducted about 20 repetitions of the drills Tuesday.

McCann said the driver training is crucial for officers who will spend a significant amount of time on the job on the road and will likely be involved in occasional high-speed pursuits. They need to be ready to handle any situation in any type of weather, he said.

"When these situations come up, the training kicks in and their skills take over," McCann said.

The class at DeKalb Tech in Covington is nearing the end of its 17-week course and will graduate April 30, making it the first in the state to graduate.

DeKalb Tech is one of six technical colleges in Georgia participating in a pilot program to offer a mandate law enforcement academy.

The other schools include Augusta Tech, Coosa Valley Tech, Ogeechee Tech, Savannah Tech and South Georgia Tech.

The six programs are certified by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST).

The Basic Law Enforcement Academies project is a partnership between the TCSG, POST and the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. It allows new law enforcement officers to receive their basic training at a state technical college and obtain college credit at the same time.

The next class is slated to begin May 4, and applications are due April 10.

Applications can be found online at http://dtclea.dekalbtech.edu or at DeKalb Technical College, 8100 Bob Williams Parkway in Covington.