In his classroom, Eric Snowburger doesn’t sugarcoat the life of a police officer.
When the 28 cadets at Augusta Technical College’s Peace Officers Training Academy took their seats for the first time Monday, they were introduced to a bulletin board that would serve as a reminder of how dangerous their job could be.
By the end of their first week, Aiken Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers’ face hung alone, but by the end of the 18-week course more faces will join hers on the black board that hangs at the back of the classroom.
The lead instructor monitors the Officer Down Memorial Page and adds a face for each death. Rogers was the 15th line-of-duty death in 2012. Snowburger believes each death can serve as a learning opportunity for future officers.
“I’m not doing it to scare them,” Snowburger said. “I’m doing it so that they never forget this is a dangerous job.”
When Cadet Ryan Moody’s wife learned of Rogers’ death – the third among Augusta-area law enforcement in three months – she asked him whether he would reconsider his career choice.
Moody said that although the news was tragic, it didn’t deter him from joining the profession he had admired since childhood.
“There still is a job to do,”
he said. “We go in knowing our first day could be our last. That’s just part of it.”
Later in the course, Snowburger will focus on line-of-duty deaths and pull from his video collection to show situations officers are placed in that they sometimes don’t survive. He described the videos as “chilling.”
After watching the 1998 dash-cam video in which Laurens County (Ga.) Officer Kyle Dinkheller takes his last breath after being gunned down, some previous students have had to leave the room.
Another video from 2000 shows Richmond County Deputy Shannon Mitchell being beaten. Darryl Wilson took the deputy’s gun and tried to shoot him, but it jammed.
“There are good days and bad days in this job,” Snowburger said. “I want them to have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting into when they leave here.”
Cadet Regina Flemming said the most recent death demonstrates a greater need to have more good officers.
“If that’s the way that I have to go – in the line of duty – then I have no problem with that,” she said.