glp; Chris Kendricks is a female

glp; Chris Kendricks is a female

Cynthia M. Jeffries

Lt. Phil Goldsmith, assistant training instructor at the North Mississippi Training Academy in Tupelo, demonstrates the proper use of a rifle to a class of cadets. More than 300 police officers from 40 departments have gone through the academy that is hailed as a model training facility for the state.

By Cynthia M. Jeffries

Daily Journal

Only a select few probably could have known that the North Mississippi Training Academy located in a red clay hole in east Tupelo would be molded into a standard model of training for police officers throughout Mississippi.

Since the academy opened in March 1992, 18 new Tupelo police hires have gone through the program and more than 300 Mississippi police officers have received their training at the school.

Before the academy opened in Tupelo, officers were sent to Jackson or Pearl for their basic training, said acting interim Tupelo Police Chief Jerry Crocker.

Former Tupelo Police Chief Billy White, who left the department last week, was instrumental in getting the funding needed to build the present day training academy on the 50-acre site.

The site where the training academy is now located on Finney Drive off of Oakview Drive in east Tupelo was a dump site about 20 years ago. Then the 155th National Guard Army Brigade took over the land and transformed it into a target practice or firing range for its use. Five years later, the city took over the property.

Public Information/Crime Prevention Officer Capt. Russ Witt and former Police Capt. Johnny Finney were the city’s first training officers.

When they first started, Finney’s truck served as their office area. After realizing they needed more space, the two men graduated to a larger work site – a blue 1947 International school bus that had been discarded by the Lee County Library system. Later the city rolled a mobile home onto the red clay lot for use as an office.

Witt remembers sitting with Finney in Finney’s old pickup in the midst of the red clay dirt patch that is now the training site and dreaming of a state-of-the-art pistol range.

“We just wanted a pistol range,” Witt said. “We would sit in that truck and say, ‘One of these days we are going to see a pistol range here.'”

Full training academy

Today, the site is more that just a place to fire a gun. It is a full training academy that has been used by about 40 police departments across Mississippi as far south as Meridian and as far west as Clarksdale.

“We become sort of their primary training academy for about 40 departments and we are real proud of that,” said Capt. Mark Dunston, director of the academy.

Since opening the doors, 347 police cadets have gone through the training academy to learn basic police techniques. The department has collected nearly $400,000 in tuition money from other departments in the last four years.

During the 10-week, 400-hour program, students get a brief overview of state laws, defensive police driving and lots of physical training, no matter what the weather.

“If they can work in it (as police officers) they can work out in it, too,” Dunston said.

The attitude and atmosphere is one similar to that of a military school. Cadets are required to run everywhere they go while they are in training. Their training is very intense and regimented and they are taught to depend on each other.

Chris Kendricks, 29, a cadet in training to join the Oxford Police Department and the platoon leader, said the training she is receiving is almost equal to her U.S. Marine training.

Physical and baton training used at the training academy has been adopted by the state and is used as a model for the four other police training academies in Mississippi – the state Training Academy in Pearl, USM Gulf Park Harrison Academy, Hattiesburg Training Academy and Jackson Police Training Academy.

The Tupelo instructors also started a handcuffing class used in getting a suspect under control, a class that has also been adopted by the other academies.

Tupelo’s was the first academy to be accredited by the board of Law Enforcement Standards and Training in Jackson.

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