Peace Officer Association of Georgia holds convention in Savanna - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Peace Officer Association of Georgia holds convention in Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Hundreds of police officers, sheriff's deputies and others are in Savannah to learn ways to serve better in their towns.

The Peace Officers Association of Georgia helps members learn, train and network.

Say the word 'convention' in some trades and it means more recreation than education, but that's not the case for the men and women of the Peace Officers Association of Georgia.

More than 500 of the 8,000 members come to Savannah for classes on combating the newest crime trends, like commercial truck theft, or dealing with the mentally ill.

The three day convention offers enough classes for officers to keep their annual certification. That's easier and cheaper than commuting somewhere else.

"We try to keep the costs low so an officer in a one person department can come, or if you're in a Metro department in Atlanta, they can afford it, too," said Kyle Sapp, president of the POAG.

The topic of 'use of force' has been on the agenda long before the national spotlight fell on Ferguson, Missouri. A police officer there shot and killed an unarmed man in an altercation with police.

Professor Greg Connor helped write guidelines for federal agents regarding use of force. As a speaker at the P.O.A.G. convention, he told WTOC the protocol and perception of use of force is an continous dialogue. In fact, Connor is working with P.O.A.G. leadership and state agencies to revise the guidelines.

"In the past, it's always been reactive," he said. "Now, at least here, for the first time we seem to be proactive."

In addition, officers receive training in dealing with the mentally ill and peacefully getting them to professional help.

"We're working with them to teach them ways to identify certain behaviors and ways to talk that person down instead of using force," explained Pat Strode, a mental health advocate.

However, those at the conference acknowledge officers must have the use of force as a 'last resort' option in cases of self defense or the harm of others.

The officers also get a look at some of the newest equipment, and all of the knowledge gained helps them protect their communities even better.

Copyright 2014 WTOC. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly