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Locust Grove police host driving course

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Law enforcement workers in Henry County took part in a course, this week, designed to enhance their driving abilities.

The Locust Grove Police Department hosted a program, Monday through Friday at Warren Holder Park, centered on police procedures for safe driving. Approximately 60 people from the Locust Grove and McDonough police departments participated in the endeavor, according to Locust Grove Police Chief Jesse Patton.

The course, he said, contained elements of classroom instruction and an opportunity for participants to put their lessons to use behind the wheel.

"We go over policies and procedures on driving -- everything from pursuit procedures to all laws governing police vehicle pursuits," Patton said. "We also go over safe-driving techniques for all police vehicles. It doesn't have to be a police cruiser.

"Some [police vehicles] are for undercover officers, investigators or administrative staff," Patton added. "We set up a small traffic-cone course, [with] instructions on parking, lane changes, braking, accelerating ... anything to do with everyday driving."

The class, he continued, is an important one for police officers to go through, because accidents are not always the result of a high-speed chase with a suspect.

"A majority of crashes that officers are involved in are at low speeds -- accidents [in] backing up or pulling out into roadways, more than pursuits," Patton said.

Locust Grove Police Sgt. Todd DeMuth, a 19-year veteran of law enforcement, served as an instructor for the driving program.

"We drive in a vehicle more than we do anything else associated with law enforcement," said DeMuth. "The goal [of the course] is to reduce liability and injury, to ourselves and to the public."

McDonough Police Maj. Kyle Helgerson has worked in his agency for five years, and participated in the program as part of mandatory training for his department. He described the class as a "good refresher course" for police personnel who wish to improve their driving skills.

"The training was beneficial, because most on-the-job injuries occur in motor-vehicle accidents," Helgerson said.