Skilled to Work: Peace Officer Academy

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:39 AM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - As the death of Tyre Nichols re-ignites calls for police reform across the country, future law enforcement officers are training to join the ranks.

In three months, these will be the rookie 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’s a lot of great examples, but there’s also bad examples out there that are obviously casting a bigger shadow than everyone else doing a good job,” said academy cadet Christopher Youngblood.

Christopher Youngblood is one of about a dozen students in the 41st class of Savannah Tech’s Peace Officer Academy. After four years in the Army, he found himself looking for a new career.

“I always want to help people, So I thought the best correlation from the army to helping people with trauma medicine would be a police officer.”

“They are guilty of a felony if they’re proven guilty.”

The 11-week course focuses on everything from firearm training to Constitutional law.

“The 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 an officer, detective, and a trainer. Now he’s an instructor at the academy.

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

More than 400 state-certified peace officers have graduated from the program since its inception in 2009.

“Every week we have recruiters from different departments from all around the state, even the country, will come to the police academy and they’ll talk to the class recruiting new officers.”

The class includes recent high school graduates, former military... and even some already employed in law enforcement who are looking to take a step up.

“I just don’t want to be a jailer inside of the chair. I wanted to be a deputy, so this just progresses my career, getting certified,” said CCSO jailer/academy cadet Aaron Womack.

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

“Just help people man and just try to save people’s lives. You got to look at every call as either you’re going to save a life or you’re going to change one,” said academy cadet Larry Champion.