GCSU students get training on firing range

May 10—A group of criminal justice students at Georgia College & State University recently showed off their skills on the shooting range with local law enforcement officers.

The range is used by officers and detectives with the Milledgeville Police Department as well as deputies and detectives with the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office. Located off Old Colony Farm Road, the range also is used by some state law enforcement agencies.

Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee arranged for 15 college students to come out to the gun range and experience how it feels to pull the trigger on a handgun and fire away at targets.

Massee said Dr. Sara Doude, a criminal justice professor at GCSU, went through the firearms course just like her students.

"Dr. Doude and Dr. Carrie Cook are the two professors there at the college who have helped us to establish a great relationship and partnership," Massee said.

The sheriff said he and the instructors and other deputies who took on different roles on the shooting range were impressed by the students.

"They were very orderly and followed all the instructions," Massee said. "We had three out of the 15 that had never fired a handgun before. And all of them shot really well."

He said there were five or six students who appeared to be excellent at using a handgun.

For the past several years, the Baldwin County Sheriff's Office has provided internships with several GCSU criminal justice majors in hopes that they choose a career in law enforcement.

"It's been very good for us because several of our college students have actually finished school and joined the sheriff's office or gone on somewhere else to begin a career in law enforcement," Massee said. "We've been fortunate to enough to have hired several of them. We're trying to create a bridge between us and anywhere they want to go in law enforcement."

Massee said the partnership is outstanding.

"It's been great from President Cathy Cox on down," Massee said.

Maj. Brad King, commander of the criminal investigations division at the sheriff's office, was one of three firearms instructors helping the students at the firing range along with Deputy Justin Seymour, who is assigned to courthouse security, and Detective Bob Butch.

Detective Sgt. Greg See, Deputy Sgt. Shawn Tapley and Deputy Oscar Garcia were involved in field training with the college students.

"The majority of our participants either had no firearm experience, and when I say that I mean never touched a handgun up to some with a little bit of experience, so it's refreshing for us to be able to teach them and teach them right off the bat because they haven't developed any bad habits," King said. "And the other is that in our profession, of course, guns are a very pivotal portion of what we do."

He said showing students firsthand how to properly use a handgun and fire it safely is one of the ways they can demonstrate to students that a career in law enforcement might be what they would like to get into someday.

"This is one of the ways we can do that by exposing them to some of the facets of what we go through in training and the work we do," King said. "They get to see and get a little hands-on experience."

King said he wanted to emphasize that the sheriff's office wasn't just recruiting candidates to join local law enforcement agencies but for law enforcement agencies in general.

"The sheriff told all of them in the group that if there was another agency that they want to go work for, we'll actually help them find placement at a department that is closer to where they grew up or where ever they want to put their roots down," King said.

Caitlyn Evans just graduated from GCSU.

"I've applied with DNR (Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division)," Evans said, noting she aspires to become a state game warden.

Evans said she grew up fishing and hunting and spending a lot of time outside while growing up in the Barrow County city of Bethlehem. She also spent several summers visiting with her grandparents who live on Lake Sinclair in Baldwin County.

She pointed out that she had been trained to shoot a gun since she was 5 years old and that her dad had taught her such life skills.

Several of the other students also talked about their experiences on the firing range and that it had inspired them to think about getting into law enforcement.