South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy Class 22-02 graduation held

Published 2:59 pm Monday, November 14, 2022

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From Staff Reports


AMERICUS – South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy Class 22-02 completed their training and were presented with their Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certificates of completion in a ceremony in the John M. Pope Center on the Americus campus.

The graduates of SGTC’s LEA Class 22-02 included: Charleston Denzel Drew of DeSoto; Robert Jarrett Hartsfield of Americus; Terrell Cordell Jones of Albany; Sean Patrick Whilden of Warner Robins; and Jatavius Jamal Whitehead of Montezuma.  Charleston Denzel Drew was not able to attend the graduation due to illness.  This was the SGTC LEA’s first 12-week academy.

Cadel Sean Patrick Whilden of Warner Robins was awarded the Academic award for having the highest-grade point average of the class.  Jatavius Jamal Whitehead of Montezuma earned the Top Gun award for highest marks on the gun range and Robert Jarrett Hartsfield was voted by his classmates to be the Class Representative.

“It is very fitting that we celebrate this new group of POST certified police officers on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour of what was originally Armistice Day and now is celebrated as Veterans Day,” said South Georgia Technical College President Dr. John Watford, when he welcomed the graduates, their families and fellow officers to the graduation.  “Your decision to follow and enforce the laws of this nation is what stands between us and chaos.  Thank you for your willingness to serve and thank you for choosing South Georgia Technical College for your POST certification training.”

After Dr. Watford’s welcome and the Invocation/Pledge of Allegiance by Cadet Sean P. Wilden, SGTC Law Enforcement Academy Director Brett Murray gave a class overview.  “This was the first 12-week Academy.  We condensed the training from 18-weeks to 12-weeks so this class had to absorb a tremendous amount of information in a shorter period of time, in addition to their physical training,” explained Major Murray. “It was very demanding but you have made it to graduation.”


Faith Pinnell, President of the Smarr-Smith Foundation is shown above with other members of the Smarr-Smith Foundation, presenting SGTC President Dr. John Watford with a check from the Smarr-Smith Foundation to the SGTC Foundation for law enforcement scholarships in memory of Nick Smarr and Jody Smith, officers who gave their lives in the line of duty.
Photo by SGTC

Following his statements, Murray introduced Faith Pinnell, President of the Smarr-Smith Foundation as the graduation guest speaker.  “Anything worth doing is not going to be easy,” said Pinnell. “My parents taught me that and each of you now understand that concept because getting to this point was not easy,” said Pinnell.  She also talked about while her job as a Pharmacist is different from a law enforcement officer there are some similarities, especially during the pandemic.

“We have all been through a pandemic and during this time, the work was not easy.  It was not safe but it was worth it.  The same is true for law enforcement officers.  Your job is not easy, it is not safe but it is very much worthwhile.  The safety and success of our communities depends on law enforcement officers and we thank you for your willingness to serve,” said Pinnell.

Following her brief talk, Pinnell also made a donation to the South Georgia Technical College Foundation from the Smarr-Smith Foundation for scholarships to POST certified officers who return to SGTC to earn their associate degree in Criminal Justice.  The Smarr-Smith Foundation was formed in memory of former law enforcement officers Nick Smarr and Jody Smith who gave their lives in the line of duty.  Both attended South Georgia Technical College.

After that presentation, South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy Director Brett Murray offered remarks to the LEA graduates and their families.  “I am very proud of each of these graduates and their commitment to complete this program.  Despite many obstacles and challenges, they persevered and have earned the right to graduate and receive their POST certification.  This is not an easy program.  We started out with 15 cadets and only five crossed the finish line today.”

He also added that while it seemed “like it was a long road to get to graduation, today is really the first day of the rest of your life, because it is the beginning of your career.  I challenge each of you to do something every day for someone else, that you never share with anyone else.  Give back and support others.”

Cadet Robert Jarrett Hartsfield was selected as the Class Representative for Class 22-02 and he was asked to speak for his classmates.  He thanked South Georgia Technical College President Dr. John Watford, college administrators, and his instructors.  He challenged his classmates to “stand where you stand,” and uphold the honor and dignity of the law enforcement officer and to make a difference in their communities by standing for what is right and just.

Normally a number of scholarships would have been presented to the law enforcement cadets but class 22-02 were all pre-service candidates sponsored by area law enforcement agencies and they voted to forgo scholarships as a class and pay it forward to the next group of cadets.

The history of the South Georgia Technical College Law Enforcement Academy began 14 years ago.  South Georgia Technical College was selected as one of six technical colleges in Georgia in August 2008 to participate in a pilot program that would allow new law enforcement officers to receive their basic law enforcement training at a state technical college and obtain college credit at the same time.  By becoming a regional training center for POST certified Law Enforcement Officers, South Georgia Technical College has been able to provide support to local and regional law enforcement agencies as well as provide additional training opportunities for students interested in entering the Criminal Justice field.

The LEA graduates received their POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certification from South Georgia Technical College as well as a technical certificate of credit that can be utilized toward a diploma or Associate Degree in Criminal Justice.

Originally the SGTC Law Enforcement Academy program took 18 weeks to complete.  This was the first time, it had been condensed to 12-weeks.  Most recruits qualify for the HOPE Grant and other forms of financial aid. Admission standards require all students to undergo a thorough background check and adhere to all rules as set forth by the state POST Council. Students will also have to meet minimum scores in English, reading and math.

For more information about the Law Enforcement Academy contact the Law Enforcement Academy office at 229.931.2716 or SGTC Law Enforcement Academy Director Brett Murray at 229.931.2756.