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COPS program graduates take first steps toward service

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By Alice Du Pont

Billy and Beatrice Redding retired several years ago and have done everything together since that time, according to Beatrice.

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"He came in one night and was talking about the Cops On Patrol program. We talked about it and he thought it was a good idea. We were couch potatoes. We looked into the program and decided we would join. The rest is history," she said.

The two were among 23 graduates of the first class, part of a pilot program that trains ordinary citizens to become the eyes and ears of law enforcement, and alert the GCSO of any potentially illegal activity. Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young heard about the program earlier this year when he attended a conference for sheriffs. He brought the concept back home and adapted it for a rural county. Capt. Robert Barkley directs the program.

"This is a pilot program and Midway was the pilot community but we have volunteers from all over the county," said Deputy Kysha Fedd, who teaches some of the classes volunteers are required to complete before graduating.

Midway City Manager Agatha Muse-Salters was a member of the Dec. 14 graduating class. She said the volunteers, which also included Midway city councilman Charlie Smith, were taking the first step in securing the city. The city has begun advertising to hire a police chief and Muse-Salters said the program would benefit that search.     

"I know this program will work, I have seen it work in other places. It is a strong deterrent against unlawful activities of potential criminals. In some areas there has been a considerable reduction in crime," Young said.

He congratulated the graduates and praised them for the efforts to help protect their communities. He said crimes among juveniles are on the rise but through programs like COP things will change in Gadsden County. He said that approximately 200 of the 6,000 juveniles in the county are committing major crimes. He told the audience of about 2,000 that a trip to juvenile court was enough to make an adult ill.

COP training has five phases:

• Citizens academy meets each Monday night for 13 weeks to familiarize volunteers with various aspects of police work including ethics and administration, radio communications, patrol procedures, crime prevention, introduction to law, police dispatch and other pertinent subjects.

• Ride-along with a deputy includes at least two rides (minimum of 2 hours) with a deputy sheriff to become familiar with how officers patrol the community and respond to specific situations.

• Driver awareness teaches traffic safety, defensive driving and what to look out for in traffic situations.

• CPR and first aid course certifies all volunteers and teaches what to do in case of an emergency.

• Traffic control instructs volunteers of how to assess and secure an accident scene and provide emergency assistance until officers, EMS and fire department personnel arrive.

The graduates are George T. Barkley, Jesse Barkley, Robert Bethea, Alonza Brown Jr., Milton Cook, Charlie Dilworth, David Knight, Barkley Lewis, Roosevelt Morris, Amos Murray, Agatha Muse-Salters, Meadie Potter III, Leola Randolph, Jerry Range, Beatrice Redding, Billy Redding, Charlie Smith, Franklin Springer, Samuel Stevens, Gerald Thomas, Morris Thomas, King D. Wright and John Youmans.