Richard Hyatt: As long as people break the law, there will be cops

April 1, 2014 

Sleep well, for we are well policed.

We're not without crime and never will be. But around Muscogee County, we have our share of men and women who wear a variety of uniforms.

They patrol our streets and protect our homes. They force us to obey the speed limit and they guard our prisoners. They keep watch on our schools, our airport and our hospitals.

The list begins with the Columbus Police Department, one of the largest police departments in Georgia. Then there's the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department, mandated by the Georgia State Constitution and one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the city.

There's the Marshal's Office, which serves Municipal Court and delivers eviction papers. These public agencies are not alone.

Certified officers also provide protection for Columbus State University, Columbus Technical College, the Columbus Airport, the Muscogee County School District, the Columbus Regional Healthcare System and St. Francis Hospital. This doesn't include the various federal and state agents who work cases here.

As long as people break the law, there will be cops.

That is true nationwide where the Department of Justice reported in 2008 that 1.1 million full-time law enforcement officers were employed in the United States. At the time, Georgia alone had 628 agencies, which employed 38,926 people -- a figure that included 26,251 sworn officers.

Municipal police departments employed the majority of those officers, but around the country nearly 800 special jurisdiction agencies were in place.

Around 250 departments protect colleges and universities. That includes the 25 sworn officers employed by Columbus State University. The CSU department is in the news since an officer shot and killed a man Sunday during a police call at a campus apartment complex. The shooting is currently under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

College police patrol the main campus on University Avenue and CSU facilities downtown 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The department is part of the Division of Student Affairs, and according to its website, this is the first fatal shooting that has ever occurred on campus.

This incident reminds us that special jurisdiction officers around town must be certified by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council just like the lawmen who work for the city and county. That includes annual classes on firearms and deadly force. Training is offered at the Regional Police Academy Columbus, minutes away from the apartments where the shooting took place.

We sometimes view special jurisdiction police as paid security officers, doing nothing more than checking to see if doors are locked or that people are parking in the proper spaces. Incidents such as the one that happened Sunday remind us that lives on campus can be put at risk just like ones on dark city streets.

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906@knology.net.

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