Two years ago, Martrell Williams almost gave up on her law enforcement dream after failing the firearms test at Augusta Technical College’s Peace Officers Training Academy.
Instead, she re-enrolled in the program and shook off her first-timer’s nerves.
Williams, 26, also could have given up after failing the emergency vehicle operators course in her second stint, but she was so close to graduating she could almost taste it.
“Academically, I never had a problem,” she said. “I always had a problem with being timed on stuff. When the targets started turning and you have to hit them in so many seconds, you’ve got to be ready for it. I kind of freaked out. I was definitely devastated.”
Fatigued and out of money after two failed attempts at the academy, the single mother said she turned to the only person she thought could help her climb the hill in front of her: Richmond County School Safety and Security Chief Alfonzo Williams, whom she knew from her time as a dispatcher for the Waynesboro Police Department during his tenure there.
After securing a scholarship, Williams returned to the academy a third time, hoping it would be the last, she said.
“I passed with flying colors,” she said. “I put in a lot of time with one of the instructors, and I excelled.”
In January 2014, Chief Williams hired her as an officer in his department. He said that her commitment to her goal caught his attention and that she serves as a model the Richmond County students can emulate.
“It shows hard work and tenacity pay off,” he said. “We believe in her. We’ve watched her grow.”
Working in a school environment is part of what makes her job enjoyable, Williams said, because she has the opportunity to guide children she sees straying from their goals.
Williams said she can especially relate to high school seniors who fail to take the classroom seriously. Williams, who attended George P. Butler High School, dropped out of school after she failed to perform academically.
“Because I played around in high school, I did not have enough credits to graduate when I was a senior,” she said. “It was either drop out and go to summer school or come back next year. I ended up dropping out.”
Using her own experiences, Williams said, she offers her support to students she sees traveling down the same path.
“If you’re doing law enforcement on the streets, you still get the same opportunity to help somebody,” she said. “These are the babies. You get to catch them before they get out there and get exposed to too much and before they get too far off track.”