2010-03-05 / News

New academy means more trained police officers and jail custodians

Photo and story by Julia Rogers Hook

Politicians, lawmakers, and Gov. Mark Sanford break ground for the new SC Criminal Justice Academy Politicians, lawmakers, and Gov. Mark Sanford break ground for the new SC Criminal Justice Academy Politicians, lawmakers, and Gov. Mark Sanford were on hand February 24 at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy’s groundbreaking for its first large expansion since 1988.

The ceremony took place at the Broad River Road location, which houses the current academy. The day’s cold, steady rain didn’t put a damper on attendance or enthusiasm as a sea of umbrellas protected the crowd listening to remarks from the governor, the CJA director, Senators Michael Fair, Jake Knotts, and Representatives Annette D. Young and Gilda Cobb as well as Lexington County Sheriff James R. Metts.

The soggy audience laughed along with Knotts as he recalled his “training” session when he was a rookie on the police force.

“My training consisted of being hired at 4 pm that afternoon to start walking the midnight beat that night,” Knotts laughed. “Another officer joined me the first night to show me which doors to jiggle and which alleys to look down.”

Sheriff James Metts echoed Knotts’ training stories when he recalled his first training class in a two–room building and being taken to a brand new makeshift shooting range where out of 78 guns, he said only about two dozen actually were capable of firing.

“I started out as a West Columbia police officer, and they basically gave me the keys to a police car and told me to go police,” Metts remembered.

All the speakers praised the current training regime at the Criminal Justice Academy, and all agreed that today’s men and women who come through the training program are ready for most anything the streets can throw at them.

“The Academy equips South Carolina’s certified law enforcement and detention officers with essential knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to do their job,” the website said. “From police training to reserve to detention officer training, the Academy helps assure professional law enforcement training for all SC law enforcement officers.”

The expansion project is expected to open in 2012 or possibly late 2011. The $14.5 million new facility will consist of a fullsized gym, a four–story dorm, a full–service kitchen, and 200–seat dining room, four 75–seat classrooms, and two 40–seat classrooms.

Construction also will meet new, state–mandated energy conservation and green standards. It is being built through a $5 surcharge on state court fines.

The Criminal Justice Academy graduates more than 1,200 beginning police officers and jail custodians each year. It also conducts advanced specialty training. The expansion will allow the academy to train hundreds more students each year.

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