Skilled to Work: Peace Officer Academy

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) – As the death of Tire Nichols reignites calls for police reform across the country, future law enforcement officers are being trained to join the ranks.

In three months, these will be junior officers and deputies patrolling the Coastal Empire. But they begin this journey under the cloud of a deadly case of police brutality in Memphis, Tennessee.

“There are a lot of great examples, but there are also bad examples out there that obviously cast a bigger shadow than anyone else doing a good job,” said academy cadet Christopher Youngblood.

Christopher Youngblood is one of about a dozen 41st grade students at Savannah Tech’s Peace Officer Academy. After four years in the army, he was looking for a new career.

“I always want to help people, so I thought the best link between the army and helping people with trauma medicine would be a police officer.”

“You are guilty of a crime if proven guilty.”

The 11-week course focuses on everything from firearms training to constitutional law.

“Students are tested every week. They do PT every day. We try to keep the day moving for them,” said Peace Officer Academy instructor Cpt. John Warenzak.

Captain John Warenzak spent 32 years in Chatham County law enforcement as a detective, detective, and instructor. Now he is an instructor at the academy.

“90 percent or more will have a job. A home to go to when they leave the police academy.”

Since its inception in 2009, more than 400 state-certified peace officers have completed the program.

“Every week, recruiters from different departments from across the state, even across the country, come to the police academy and talk to the class to recruit new officers.”

The class includes recent high school seniors, ex-military men… and even some who are already in law enforcement and want to make a step up.

“I just don’t want to be a jailer in a chair. I wanted to be a deputy so this only advances my career by getting certified,” said Aaron Womack, CCSO Prison Warden/Academy Cadet.

While their goal will be employment in three months, these cadets have another long-term goal in mind.

“Just help people and just try to save people’s lives. You have to look at every call because you’re either saving a life or changing one,” said Academy cadet Larry Champion.

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