Citizens police academy details hiring, training, patrol, safety
As about 18 residents entered the Goose Creek Police Department training room on Sept. 17 for the second week of the citizens police academy they learned that Capt. John Grainger handles internal affairs.
“I answer directly to the chief,” Grainger said. “I don’t have to succumb to the staffing needs of each department. That keeps it independent.”
He is one of four captains at GCPD.
“We like to hire formally certified officers,” Grainger said. “People who are already graduates of the 12-week academy in Columbia. It saves tax dollars.”
Grainger said officers already certified in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina can be hired without further training from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.
“If we have none of these we like to hire college graduates,” Grainger said. “High school graduates are the bare minimum by law.”
Character is assessed by what applicants have done in the past, Grainger said, adding that there can be no criminal record, no criminal driving record – the latter of which is based on how often, severe and recent the incidents are.
“If someone had speeding tickets nine years ago but nothing since, then it’s OK,” Grainger said.
Red flags are a history of criminal domestic violence, assault, alcohol, criminal drug use and Internet behavior. A 27-page questionnaire is verified with a polygraph test.
“We check credit history,” Grainger said. “If you’re going to borrow money, you should pay it back.”
Applicants must be honest.
“If we lie, we walk,” Grainer said. “In the hiring process, if they lie then they are done. The chief does not accept untruthfulness.”
Then there are physical exams.
“We’ve got to make sure they’re not going to die on us while they do the job,” Grainger said. “We send applicants to a physiologist.”
In the past four years GCPD has hired 10 officers, which Grainger said is a lot since it takes six to eight weeks to hire an officer.
By state law applicants must be 21 years old. This allows them to carry a firearm.
“There is no maximum age limit. The oldest officer were hired was a 62-year-old former SLED agent.”
There has been a 16 percent turnover rate in the last five years. Nationwide, law enforcement has a high turnover rate, Grainger said. “It has a high disillusionment rate,” he said. “It’s a calling. It’s hard work. It’s not what people think it is.”
Officers who live in Berkeley, Dorchester of Charleston counties may take their patrol vehicles home, Grainger said.
“Once hired they train with me for two weeks,” Training Lt. Keith Ott said, adding this is where officers learn to deal with the mentally ill, ethics and character.
Firearms, baton, handcuffing, weaponless self-defense and Taser training also take place, he said.
“Then they go to the criminal justice academy for field service training.”
Capt. David Aarons said every officer is evaluated in 33 categories and supervisors are evaluated in 33 more categories.