A training center developed by the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office is honing the skills of thousands of officers in Cherokee County and elsewhere.

To help its deputies, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office established a training center next to the sheriff’s office headquarters in 2013. It has become a prime training destination for other agencies as well.

Capt. John Gunning, the director of training, said the facility was established by former Sheriff Roger Garrison to provide a top center for agencies across north Georgia to be better prepared to face situations encountered in the line of duty. Prior to this facility being established, there was no such location of this magnitude available for law enforcement departments in north Georgia, Gunning said.

“Since January of 2017, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office’s Training Center supported 261 classes, nearly 20,000 law enforcement officers and deputies comprised from 26 separate federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies by providing instruction, classrooms, firearms ranges and technical support,” Gunning said. “Numerous other government agencies and charitable organizations utilize the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office’s Training Center facilities for meetings, training and events.”

Sheriff Frank Reynolds said one benefit of having a facility where agencies from throughout the region can come and train alongside the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office is that other agencies can share valuable information with the local deputies. Thanks to partnerships the sheriff’s office has established with Reinhardt University and Columbus State University, Reynolds added both universities have set up a number of educational programs for deputies at the training center. Similarly, the working relationships forged between the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office and other agencies who train in Cherokee County gives CSO deputies the ability to travel to neighboring jurisdictions for other forms of training. For example, Gunning said that deputies receive PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) training from a facility operated by the Forsyth Sheriff’s Office.

The training curriculum has expanded and changed over time to keep up with the latest trends. And, a number of the law enforcement agencies that have had officers train at the center have donated money, building materials or equipment to help improve the facility, Gunning said.

The training center covers 42 acres and includes five shooting ranges, classrooms, a close quarters training space, an obstacle course used for new recruits and a rappelling tower that also allows for long-range firearm training. The largest of the shooting ranges is located across the street from the main training center facility and has 16 shooting lanes, one is a reactive range (metal targets pop up from behind cover at random intervals to test reaction and speed) and the others are multi-use ranges to allow for training at various distances and in a variety of situations, including using a vehicle as cover and firing from inside a vehicle. With its size, Gunning said the facility is able to have training going on virtually all the time.

Although firearms training is important and one of the more well-known aspects of law enforcement training, both Gunning and Reynolds stressed that it is only one small part of the training deputies receive at the facility.

“We do have firearms training, but we also have restraint training,” Reynolds said. “We work a great deal on de-escalation of a situation.”

This training has proven effective, as Reynolds and Gunning said there have only been a small handful of officer-involved shootings throughout the county over the past several years.

“The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office’s Training Division has no plans of slowing down,” Gunning said. “The need for a facility to train law enforcement will continue to grow, as will we.”

Future projects being considered are situational firearms training facilities and a driving track for emergency vehicle operations training.

“Since being elected sheriff in January of 2017, Sheriff Frank Reynolds has placed an enormous emphasis on training and education,” Gunning said. “His philosophy is that superior training and education set the culture for all employees and facilitates the goal of providing the citizens of Cherokee County with a highly trained and professional organization to support their needs.”

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