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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Milton starts up citizen police academy.

By Jonathan Copsey; Appen Newspapers

MILTON - What would make someone want to become a police officer? Curiosity? Career opportunities? Love of the profession? It was all of the above for the students at Milton's second Citizen's Police Academy, which began last week.

This 9-week course will teach the dozen Milton students everything the police do – from how DUIs are handled, to canine and drug arrests to when to use force on a criminal – all in an effort to get the public more familiar with what the police department.

"I've not been shot, I've never shot anyone, I don't drink coffee and I don't eat donuts," proclaimed Captain Shawn McCarty, who is in charge of Milton's uniformed officers, setting the tone for the evening that there are many misconceptions and half-truths about policing.

The instructor of the classes, Officer Andrew Phillips is a well-decorated officer in Milton, having served several years in Marietta and winning numerous awards for distinction and valor, including the Department of Justice's Medal of Valor (for which Phillips is the only officer in Georgia to receive). He served eight years on Marietta's SWAT team and their drug unit. So obviously he's fairly qualified to teach a group of citizens about policing.

"There are hours of boredom intermingled with moments of terror," said Phillips. One moment an officer could be chasing a drug addict who may be armed, the next a resident is calling about their neighbor's loud dog. The ups and downs of the stress in the job lead to officers routinely living 10 to 15 years less than the average person.

The purpose of the classes – one a week for about nine weeks – is to get residents familiar with policing and all that goes into it. Some might be surprised that the traditional "Keystone Kop" image is a thing of the past, with police forces in North Fulton training rigorously and maintaining exceptionally high standards of proficiency and fitness.

In the introductory class, held last Thursday, the students were introduced to the instructors and were given the opportunity to ask any questions they had of police practice: Why is the speed limit set as it is? Can I use radar on speeders? How many arrests does the department give out? What are my rights with firearms?

Interesting and scary little facts were unveiled to the class. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber, was found by having a license tag violation (other large criminals were found for similar violations); the roses in tubes that can be found in gas stations? That tube is actually a crack pipe, which is why it is often found next to lighters – it's legal to sell some drug paraphernalia, even if the drug itself is illegal.

This article marks the first in a series of articles that will detail the classes and the content covered in them. Next week will be a class everyone has an opinion on: traffic enforcement.

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