Eric Snowberger, the lead instructor for the Peace Officers Training Academy at Augusta Technical College, wanted to make sure his 25 graduates enter the force knowing what they are getting themselves into.
On the first day of class, July 6, Snowberger hung up a “thin blue line” on his wall in the classroom where members of Class 006 came to get their Peace Officer Standards and Training certification. During the 18 weeks the students trained to become Georgia’s newest peace officers, Snowberger posted every notification of an officer death in the line of duty throughout the United States.
By the last day of class, Nov. 18, there were 49 names on the wall.
“I don’t want to scare the students. I want them to know what they are getting into,” he said during the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Class 006 became the largest class to complete the course. The students received college credit and their POST certification. Most will go directly into the force, Snowberger said, but a few will stay in school and continue working toward a degree in criminal justice.
This class was also the first time students had to pay for part of it.
“It isn’t cheap,” said Terry Elam, the college president. “But we’re committed to make it happen. This is a program that’s important to the community.”
Elam said the cost used to be fully covered by Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program for those who qualify, but now it only pays part. The college has lowered the tuition to be less of a burden on students, from $300 per semester hour to $200. HOPE now covers $62 per semester hour, and students are responsible for the rest, for a 42-semester-hour program.
Linda Miller, the secretary of Augusta Tech’s Basic Law Enforcement Academy, said the financial commitment includes $700 out of pocket – $400 in application fees and $300 in uniform costs – to start the program, before any classes. Students who qualify for the HOPE Scholarship pay $6,496 out of pocket for the course and fees, while those who don’t pay $8,400.
“They have to be committed,” she said.
Working during the program is difficult because the classes are held 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and physical training is held after class three days a week.
The program has an 85 percent placement rate after completion, however.
“This is an exceptionally talented class,” Elam said.
Hillary Ivey, who graduated Tuesday, has a reserve officer position waiting for her with the Crawfordville, Ga., Police Department. A reserve position is not paid, but she will receive training hours. She will also be the department’s first female officer.
“I am so happy,” she said after the ceremony. “This is a long time coming. I have always wanted to do investigations. This is the first step.”
Ivey also won the class’ Best Attitude award.
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver was the guest speaker at the ceremony.
“Part of being a leader is simply doing what others don’t want to do,” he said. “Part of leadership is definitely about sacrifice.”
After the mayor spoke, the students were brought on stage for the pinning ceremony. They were pinned by family members. Joshua Bartlett, 20, was pinned by his father, Deputy Ronald Bartlett, who has been with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office for 22 years.
McDuffie County Magistrate Judge David Moore led the swearing-in of the new officers.
Snowberger addressed the graduates before he sent them out to pursue jobs in law enforcement.
“I want to welcome you to the thin blue line. You are the peacemakers now,” he said.