Cobb funds 2 police training centers; some say consolidation makes more sense
by Kim Isaza and Jon Gillooly
October 07, 2012 12:28 AM | 9513 views | 23 23 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County police recruits receive classroom instruction at the Cobb County Department of Public Safety Training Center in Marietta on Thursday afternoon. <br> Photo by Laura Moon
Cobb County police recruits receive classroom instruction at the Cobb County Department of Public Safety Training Center in Marietta on Thursday afternoon.
Photo by Laura Moon
slideshow
Cobb County Police Field Training Officer M. Gasque, left, listens as police recruit D. Garsh questions a man who was arrested on indecent exposure charges at Cobb Police Department Precinct 4 in east Cobb on Friday afternoon. <br> Photo by Laura Moon
Cobb County Police Field Training Officer M. Gasque, left, listens as police recruit D. Garsh questions a man who was arrested on indecent exposure charges at Cobb Police Department Precinct 4 in east Cobb on Friday afternoon.
Photo by Laura Moon
slideshow
Cobb County spends more than a million dollars each year to finance two law-enforcement training centers: one for county police, and the North Central Georgia Law Enforcement Academy, which is operated by the Cobb Sheriff’s office.

Sam Heaton, Cobb’s acting director of public safety, insists the police facility provides more thorough training for its officers.

Sheriff Neil Warren says that may be so, “but look at what it’s costing.”

The two academies were also a “key concern” of the county’s Citizens Oversight Committee. In its report last February, the committee wrote: “The (Board of Commissioners) must re-visit the decision made more than a decade ago to develop and maintain two separate law enforcement training facilities,” and noted concerns with cost and duplication and consistent standards and also pointed out that “communication and camaraderie between departments and agencies suffers.”

“Different agencies (Sheriff, Police and Fire) can and should be able to set their own, particularized course and training requirements, which may differ in some particulars; but these can and should be accommodated in a single training facility,” the report states. It “may require some costs to expand and modify the NCGLEA, for example, but overall and in the long-term, such a decision would pay positive and significant dividends.”

It costs about $500,000 per year to operate NCGLEA, which is in Austell, and the county contributes about half of that.

Meanwhile, the Cobb Police training center’s annual operating and personnel costs are just under $1 million.

Heaton said Cobb County spends about $25,000 to send one police recruit through 25 weeks at the training academy, though that includes the recruit’s pay.

Regional academies, like the NCGLEA, provide just 10 weeks of basic, or mandate, training.

The police academy is more thorough, he said, “to ensure we field the best trained police officers possible.”

“The citizens of Cobb County deserve to be served and protected by officers that are trained better than the bare minimum required by the state,” he said. “The result is hard to measure in dollars.

“It is difficult to measure the value of a life saved by an officer because of this additional training, or the value of liability avoided when an officer makes a good decision that was based upon additional training,” he said.

The separate police academy also allows the department to provide consistent physical training, Heaton said.

“A fit officer is better qualified to protect citizens and themselves,” he said.

There are 608 Cobb Police officers, including command staff.

This year, the department has hired 45 new officers, all of whom go through about 25 weeks of initial training, followed by 14 weeks on the beat with a field training officer. After that, they are riding solo in a police vehicle, but have their performance monitored weekly by shift sergeants for six weeks.

In 2007, Cobb Police hired 81 new officers. In 2002, the number was 53.

The salary for a Cobb police officer ranges from about $38,000 to $63,000.

The police training center, which is off of County Services Parkway in Marietta, has 13 sworn officers on staff and three civilians.

Sheriff Warren favors consolidation of the two academies, at least for basic training. Police from the six cities in Cobb, as well as surrounding counties and cities elsewhere, send their officers to NCGLEA and contribute toward its costs and operations.

“Police, deputies, city officers … we all work together,” he said. “Crime crosses jurisdictions.”

Warren said Cobb’s choice to create and fund its own police academy in part caused the state to cut back on money sent to the NCGLEA.

The state collects fines and fees on traffic tickets and criminal offenses, and the money is intended to pay for police training.

Although Cobb sent $1.7 million in such money to the state in 2010, he said, the amount returned for NCGLEA was less than half a million dollars. State budget officials have warned that all state money for NCGLEA will be eliminated next year, Warren said.

“Cobb County taxpayers are getting ripped off,” he said.

Heaton is hesitant on the idea of consolidating the two academies.

“I would never say it can’t be done, but I’m not sure it would be very efficient,” he said. “It’s different training all together. At a short glance, it appears to make sense to join everything. But it would take a more in-depth study to see what exactly is needed for the county and the region.”

Space is also an issue, he said.

“They stay busy and we stay busy,” Heaton said. “We’re bursting at the seams at our training facility. It is almost always packed.”

As for the argument that some Cobb Police officers take their premier training and leave for other departments, the numbers don’t indicate a mass exodus.

In 2011 — the year of the furloughs — 14 officers who left Cobb Police said they were doing so to take law-enforcement jobs elsewhere. In 2010, the number was five. There were seven each in 2009 and 2008, according to the department.

Those who gave reasons for leaving listed better pay, better opportunities, better morale and feeling appreciated, Heaton said.

“We want to provide the best training, so we can provide the best public safety to citizens,” Heaton said. “I don’t think you give that up based on personnel possibly leaving your department.”

Sheriff Warren, though, said officers leaving for greener pastures is nothing new.

“A lot of the smaller cities won’t hire someone who isn’t already certified, because they don’t want to spend the extra money training them,” he said.

Deputies who leave the Cobb sheriff’s office within two years are asked to reimburse their training costs.

State law allows cities and county police to recoup such costs as well, but Cobb Police don’t do that. They don’t want an officer to stay on the job just to avoid paying back the cost, county spokesman Robert Quigley said.
Comments
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conflict of interest
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October 13, 2012
The MDJ should have included in this story that the citizens oversight committee was chaired by a guy who was the sheriff's campaign treasurer. It makes a person question any public safety recommendation in favor of the the sheriff for a potential conflict of interest.

Two Depts?
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October 10, 2012
The PD exists because the Sheriff allowed it. The were enacated to be a traffic unit but over the years they grew unchecked. Only in the metro area do we have county Police Departments. They are not needed and are silly. Its a way for the commissioners to try to control the police instead of them acting autonymously. The Sheriff has duties he must carry out. These folks at the PD want to only do part of the job of a peace officer as well. They only want to ticket and haul folks to jail. There is a LOT more to law enforcement to that. Having worked at the S.O. and PD I speak from experience. The Sheriff runs the jail, serves all the warrants, protects the courts, serves all the civil process, investiates all the fraud cases (10 of thousands a year as the PD doesen't want these), runs the narcotics division for the county, has Deputies on the Marshals fugitive task force. Who do you think hunts those murders down the police? Hilarious!!, they can only operate in unincorporated Cobb, The sheriff can go anywhere he wants in the state. I agree that we should staff the jail with jailers and the road with Deputies, it is silly to staff the jail with 38k Deputies to keep inmates from beating one another. It would save tons of money. Consolidating the two departments would be best, it ups the power for both, increases PT requirements for the S.O. and gives much broader powers to the Police all under one umbrella. The only draw back is the tons of upper level office occupiers would be reduced but efficency would go up tremendously with one stop shopping law enforcement. If you want to be a police officer, go to a city. The counties of GA were intended to be run by a sheriff and should go back to that.
Not the same
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October 09, 2012
The next time you are out at a theater or another business ask the Deputy working that part time job to investigate your minor fender bender in the parking lot. I'll bet you his answer will be call the police. Why because he/she isn’t capable or willing to do the investigation for you. He/She has only had the most basic accident investigation taught to him/her years ago. Open your eyes people and look at the Law Enforcement you see in the uniforms, how many overweight out of shape PD officers do you see compared to the SO then tell me who do you want when you call 911? First impressions mean allot to the public and the criminal element waiting to strike. It all starts with the level of training expected and received when they are first hired.
tired of it
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October 10, 2012
A deputy or police officer working at the movies is on a part time job being paid by the theatre so yea, he is going to tell you to call the police.

the PD has always thought they were better as they are tought that, only problem with that is the SO has jurisdiction STATE wide not just in Cobb County, PD only has jurisdiction in the County so if we get rid of one of the departments it should be the PD>
Not the same 2
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October 10, 2012
Well being it is on private property you don't need an accident report. But I guess they didn't teach you that at your oppress the minorities take everybody to jail mandate class at the PD. Working a traffic wreck is not some high speed skill, you have officers with GED's doing it. Not impressed there either. Ask a pd officer about a warrant or the most basic fraud complaint and he will kick you to the Sheriff. Its a two way street. I am so glad the pd has those 130lb officers, that would explain why we see so many of you in PC hearing for obstruction. When you catch the guy you cant handcuff him at 130 and end up tasing or beating the kid into submission just for running. I'm not impressed. The criminal element waiting to strike? Really you looking pretty deters them, from the numbers in the jail it dosent seem to be working. If the PD worried more about how they treated people rather than how much gel is in their hair the county would be a better place. Plus its the Sheriff's goon squads full of big men who drag the bad ones out from under their beds serving warrants, not the police. Ticketing people is petty not impressive. There was no need to try to insult one agency over another. It just goes to show the arrogance that constantly results in bad judgement calls we see the PD make on the street daily. You know your job, the S.O knows theirs, leave it at that. Just because your bloated budgets are in trouble dosen't give you the right to attack jobs you don't do or understand. You only exist because the Sheriff has allowed it. At anytime he could take every thing back, maybe he should.
Just Saying SO
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October 09, 2012
First of all lets look at Cobb SO. Why do we need certified law enforcement Officers in the jail. Certify them as only civilian jailers and when a position comes open then send them to mandate. This would cut way down on uniforms and equipment, pay them jailer pay not police officer pay.That would save a ton. The SO has way to much rank and file cut some of that out, there is another ton of money. After all over half of these so called certified deputies work in the JAIL so hire them as JAILERS not certified police officers that would cut out a lot of training for these people that do not use it for anything but watching inmates.
boo hoo
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October 08, 2012
While the commissioners are at it, abolish Cobb P.D. altogether. It is absurd to have both agencies. County P.D. are dinosaurs of the past. There are only twelve county p.d. left in Ga. Let the citizens elect a sheriff to run a consolidated agency. Half the command staff along with Sam Heaton in a do nothing job would be gone. POST sets basic trainging for EVERYONE in the state. All else is tax payer gravy.
No Crying
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October 09, 2012
Boo hoo P.O.S.T. sets all training not just Basic and learn how to spell training.
lackofunderstanding
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October 08, 2012
I don't see how it will save money to combine. You still need the same staff to teach students, still need the same class rooms, still need the same supplies, still need the same number of support staff. It won't make a difference if they are teaching in a building in Austell or on County Services. Staff and buildings are still the same cost. Are we going to expand NGCLEA for more classrooms for PD? Or combine basic classes then require advance classes for guys going on the road?

Sounds like the county should stop paying for half of NGCLEA costs if they only send a limited number of sheriffs. Maybe the cities should pick up more of the tab or close that facility down.

Seems they are wanting to shut down the better operated and better ran facility. Cut off the good leg to save the bad?
freefromduplication
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October 08, 2012
Cobb County, with all its swagger about lean gov't and so called conservative good stewards of the ol might tax dollar, demonstrating the "duplication of public services". Give me a break you hypocrits. Really, a need to have a Cobb County Sheriff's Dept, a Cobb Police Dept, and a Marietta City Police....Go ahead Cobb power brokers, just keep frivolously wasting those funds.
the venter
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October 08, 2012
Wow. Get a clue. BOTH academies are full, all the time, either with recruits or ongoing training for officers, merging them would simply result in lower quality or unavailable training.



Also, Cobb Co. doesn't fund the Marietta PD, or any other local department. No duplication there. The Cobb SO pretty much only runs the jail, courthouse and warrant division, leaving general LE responsibilities to the PD. Again, not much duplication.
5548576
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October 08, 2012
"... “A fit officer is better qualified to protect citizens and themselves,”

Since when is protecting citizens what police officers do? They are there to catch people that break the law in the best of circumstances. In Cobb county it seems like they are there to collect revenue and keep the jails full.

Don't get me wrong, occasionally a police officer does get the opportunity to help people but that's the role we reserve for firemen and EMT's.

When you look at a police officers day to day activities they fine people, kidnap (arrest) people and sometimes kill people. There also lots of threatening people, bullying and lying. These things can help our society if kept in check. But they very rarely help individual citizens.
the venter
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October 08, 2012
Let me guess, you couldn't get hired as a cop?
miguelit
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October 07, 2012
What Sheriff Warren failed to mention is that no instructor at the Cobb Police Academy has ever negligently killed a recruit. If you are worried about cost, how much did that incident cost you and the NCGLEA, Sheriff Warren? It doesn't make the NCGLEA training look too good, does it?
At least
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October 09, 2012
Well at least it was on duty and not another PD swat guy killing another and then lying about it. Im not impressed with the PD either
Say What?
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October 07, 2012
Two completely different missions, two totally different jobs. Deputies mostly work jails & courts. Police mostly work the road and handle investigations. How do you train both under one umbrella? Kind of like sending your High Schooler to a Day Care Center for school!! They also have teachers. Worth the few extra dollars to make sure each receive the best possible training.
5548576
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October 08, 2012
No, that's kinda like training architects and nurses at one college. Happens all the time quite successfully.
Just Wait
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October 07, 2012
The academy run by the Sheriff is a regional one and the course have to be set up so the most students can pass. The academy run by the police is set up to weed out those not up to the standards set by the PD. You would think the Sheriff would want his people trained to a higher standard.
anonymous
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October 07, 2012
As a resident of unincorporated Cobb County, I want my officers trained more than the average officer. NCGLEA gives minimum training because that is all the small agencies can allow before starting a new recruit. Cobb P D Officers are noted for their training. If we reduce that, we might as well expect less from our department.
Insignificant
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October 07, 2012
They aren't leaving for other police departments? WHO ARE THEY KIDDING!!! Turnover has been crazy the past few years (200 at least). I bet 50 officers so far this year went to other police departments. When the new guys are making the same pay as a 5 to 6 year veteran, and supervision has a 'myway or the highway' attitude, officers will keep leaving. Officers are getting better pay, better benefits, a take home car, and management that appreciates them at city departments like Alpharetta, Smyrna, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Etc. I guess the MDJ was just looking for some filler for the front page because they really didn't do their homework for this article.......
anonymous
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October 07, 2012
I would love for the people of Cobb County to know how many people have left the departments in 2012 alone. I can guarantee the number is bigger than the past 3 years combined. How much is that going to cost the county to train new people to replace those who are leaving due to no raises, cuts to retirement, and better pay elsewhere? Yes the public sector isn't getting raises, but at the same time you cannot keep losing experienced officers and deputies to other departments with the old mentality that we will simply hire more.
Uknow it
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October 08, 2012
I trust an elected by the people Sheriff Warren with training tax dollars far more than an appointed by the commissioners Sam Heaton. Period.
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