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Law Enforcement Academy tries to bridge communication gap
GPTC invites police, community leaders to the table
Rockdale County Sheriff's Officer Michael Lloyd, from left, Community Members James Burgess and Maureen Watt talk with Albany Police Officer George Barber Jr. (Submitted Photo | The Covington News)

The Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) of Georgia Piedmont Technical College(GPTC)  hosted its second week-long session designed to train working police officers in the art of communication with members of the communities they serve.

The training session is called “Beyond Community Policing: Building & Sustaining Positive Relationships for the Long Term.” Twenty-three officers from 10 different law enforcement agencies around the Atlanta metro area attended the training session the last week of January 2017.  The 40-hour training, which is POST (Georgia Peace Officer Standards & Training) Council approved, culminated with the officers sharing a meal and discussing issues with about 25 community members and activists from the officers’ respective jurisdictions. In light of recent tension between police and various minority communities, one of the goals of this training was to open the dialogue between the two groups and to foster a greater trust between police and the people in the communities they serve.

Among the topics discussed in the first four days of the five-day training were: Cultural Diversity and Cultural Responsiveness; Crisis Intervention; Building positive community relationships; effective communication and Defining community policing, among other topics.  The fifth day brought the two groups together for a meal and meaningful dialogue. Officer Michael Loyd – a 10-year veteran with the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office said the training helped him to understand that all people are not the same and that each group of people, and sometimes individuals, needs to be handled with greater sensitivity.

“Out of all the classes I have taken in my career, this, I must say, has been the best one,” Loyd said.  When asked what new element about law enforcement was learned from the workshop, Loyd said, “That we in law enforcement need to spend a lot more time in our community learning about the people that we serve.” 

That was the goal of LEA Community Policing organizers.

“The basic foundation of law enforcement hasn’t changed, but what has changed are the nuances of the communities we serve.  We’re working to train existing officer how to be more aware of cultural and religious customs, various lifestyle choices and how to defuse tense situations, among other things,” said Major Harry McCann, the director of GPTC’s LEA.

Agencies represented at the training conference include Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office, City of Decatur Police, Albany Police, Peachtree City Police, Norcross Police, Forest Park Police, Lawrenceville Police, Georgia Gwinnett College Police, Agnes Scott Police and Georgia Tech Police. The Academy intends to continue offering these valuable training sessions.  The first was held January 2016. The next is scheduled for Oct. 2 – 6 at the LEA training facility in Covington.