A law enforcement mandate academy could soon be established in Newton County if officials at DeKalb Technical College are successful in their meetings with state officials later this month.
Judge J. Virgil Costley Jr., coordinator of paralegal education at DeKalb Tech, said a mandate academy in Newton County would help streamline a process that hinders law enforcement agencies from quickly putting new officers into action.
The county and city currently send their new hires to an academy in Clayton County, which is seemingly overwhelmed.
"Right now, most agencies are on a waiting list for the officers to be entered into the academy," said Beverly Thomas, a criminal justice instructor at DeKalb Tech.
While Costley said the Clayton County academy was the best he had worked with, the minimum of a two month wait was too long for an area in need of relief.
"We want to help get officers out on the street," Costley said. "Right now when they are hired, officers have to sit around for 10 weeks not able to do much more than paperwork while they wait, and then they spend another 10 weeks in classes."
Newton County Sheriff Joe Nichols said he believes the current system has to change.
"The system is in turmoil and has been for a while," Nichols said. "Clayton County has been in trouble for several years now. It is not their fault. They have had budget cuts and other things going on but having a school across the street would be much easier for us."
On Jan. 24, a group of representatives from DeKalb Tech will travel to the office of the Department of Technical and Adult Education to present their plan for the academy. Eleven other technical colleges will also present their bids.
If chosen, Thomas said the current facilities at DeKalb Tech's Newton campus would be renovated to house the new academy.
"It is a perfect location because of the space we have with this building plus the availability of the necessary space outside," Thomas said.
Newton, Rockdale and Walton counties' law enforcement agencies have also volunteered the use of their facilities as needed.
Three new positions would be created for the academy, but 90 percent of the actual teaching would be done by volunteers from local law enforcement agencies.
"Most of the people who would teach the classes would be local law enforcement," Costley said. "We are fortunate enough to have several officers skilled and trained in specialized areas. They would come in and teach the students those skills."
Thomas has worked for more than a year on the project with an advisory committee which includes chiefs and sheriffs from Walton, Newton and Rockdale counties. All three counties would utilize the new facility if DeKalb Tech is chosen, Thomas said, while other agencies could join at a later time.
"This would do a lot of things for the community," Costley said. "It would increase the employment pool while also increasing the visibility of not only DeKalb Tech but also of the entire area."
Students who attend the academy would receive college credit for courses taken.
"We are going to raise the quality of education for those going through law enforcement training while increasing the collaborative efforts between agencies and the school," Costley said.
Thomas was unsure how long it would take for DTAE to make a decision, but if DeKalb Tech is chosen, work would begin as soon as possible on securing other necessary support for the academy. Costley has already received approval from the Newton County Board of Commissioners,.
How the academy will be paid for is unclear at the moment, Thomas said. In the past, the state has paid for the initial costs of mandate schools, but Thomas said there has been some discussion that that might change.