If it seems to Middle Georgia State College students, faculty and staff that a lot of men and women wearing identical white shirts and khaki pants are showing up on the Macon Campus, they aren't imagining things.
The campus is now home to a police academy.
The Georgia Public Safety Training Center, headquartered in Forsyth, opened GPSTC Bibb on the Macon Campus in June. Two classes totaling 66 recruits began their 11 weeks of training as basic police officers on July 7.
"We feel very fortunate to be here," said Maj. Mike Barton, manager of GPSTC Bibb. "It's a perfect location for us. The facilities are excellent."
The academy is leasing space in the Macon Campus's new Community Education Center, located in the former Wellness Center on the east end of campus near the Student Life Center. In addition to training new police officers, the academy will provide intermediate and advanced continuing education for current law enforcement professionals.
GPSTC Bibb and Middle Georgia State hosted a formal grand opening of the new academy on Tuesday, Aug. 5, that drew about 40 representatives of the college and a variety of law enforcement agencies. Speakers included GPSTC Director Timothy J. Bearden, Middle Georgia State President Dr. Christopher Blake and Bibb County Sheriff David Davis.
“We are proud GPSTC Bibb has made this campus its home,” Blake said. “This is an example of good stewardship. It shows what organizations can do when they come together for the betterment of the community.”
The Macon Campus's original Wellness Center was closed in April when Middle Georgia State opened a more expansive Recreation and Wellness Center. Partnering with another state organization, especially one that is also in the business of education, to make good use of the old space just made sense, said Nancy Stroud, Middle Georgia State's vice president for fiscal affairs.
"This is a partnership that creates revenue for the college and gives new life to space that would otherwise be unused," she said. "The police officer cadets will be eating in the campus cafeteria, buying things in the bookstore and serving as an inspirational and positive presence for our students. It's win-win."
One of the “wins” is the ability of Middle Georgia State to collaborate with GPSTC to make it more convenient for law enforcement professionals to pursue academic degrees. Dr. Art Recesso of Middle Georgia State’s Office of Academic Affairs is working with GPSTC to develop an associate’s degree program in public safety that, once approved, will be offered through a blend of online and traditional courses. Recesso also collaborated with GPSTC officials to put the academy’s curriculum online.
“Together, we created an entirely new learning opportunity - one that incorporates high standards, security, and data analytics to support the instructor’s engagement of every learner in a helpful and meaningful way,” Recesso said. “We combined Middle Georgia State’s interactive and flexible online learning environments with GPSTC’s high-powered performance-based learning. Students who complete the competency-based program will earn a certificate and may apply those credits towards a two-year degree that can be completed in just two semesters.”
The academy is not the Community Education Center’s only occupant. The state's Center of Innovation for Aerospace is moving there from another Macon Campus location. The Macon Campus Health Clinic has been in the building since the old Wellness Center days and will remain for now.
Barton leads the academy's staff, made up of coordinators/instructors Capt. Max Justice, Lt. Randy Harris, Lt. Tony Winborn and Lt. Greg Evans. Chris Maccarone is the unit secretary.
Most of the 66 cadets in the academy's first training classes are from the Middle Georgia region or not far beyond. Those who do not live within comfortable commuting distance of GPSTC Bibb are spending nights in the barracks at Forsyth headquarters. Some of their training - in firearms and law enforcement vehicle operation, for example – is taking place in Forsyth or through the Bibb County Sheriff's Office, which also is providing instructors for the academy.
At the Macon Campus, they take classes in Georgia criminal law, criminal procedures, report writing, investigations and defense tactics, among other topics. Cadets will work on their physical fitness on the Macon Campus, too.
"It's not like the military where they would have to do x number of pushups per day," Barton said. "We focus on fitness and wellness and making improvements every week."
That’s why the sight of cadets jogging around campus will soon be common. But it’s another planned daily ritual that is likely to become a favorite of other members of the college community: the academy’s ceremonial raising of the U.S. flag in front of the Community Education Center each morning.
About the Georgia Public Safety Training Center: GPSTC is the state’s premier training facility for all state and local public safety-related units of government including police officers, firefighters, 911 operators, coroners, emergency management officers, rescue officers, jail officers and other emergency service personnel.
Established in 1980, GPSTC has been training the public safety community longer than any other institution in Georgia. GPSTC’s training divisions include: the Georgia Police Academy, the Georgia Fire Academy, the Basic Training Division and the Instructional Services Division, which are the state’s leading providers of certified basic, advanced and specialized training for public safety officials. GPSTC’s main campus encompasses nearly 1,000 acres and is centrally located just off I-75 in Forsyth,Ga.
GPSTC's Basic Training Division maintains and operates several academies throughout the state in addition to the academy in Bibb. Each of these academies conducts the Basic Mandate Law Enforcement Training program, the Basic Jail Officer Training program and selected specialized and advanced training courses. Other academies are GPSTC Athens, Cherokee, Columbia/Richmond, Columbus, Dalton, Garden City and Tifton. (Source: http://www.gpstc.org/)