Sumter's law enforcement officers reviewed what it takes to serve and how to get the most from their profession during the Rotary Club of Sumter-Palmetto's annual Law Enforcement Day Luncheon at The Restaurant at Second Mill on Thursday.
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- Sumter County Sheriff's Office Cpl. Olivia Gibson
- Sumter County Sheriff's Office Detention Center Cpl. Adrienne Richardson
- Sumter Police Department Lead Cpl. Cameron Bryant and Patrolman Joseph Kellahan
- South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Boland
The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy is one of three in the country that provides officer training for the entire state, said Director Lewis "Jackie" Swindler, a 43-year veteran of law enforcement.
In taking on the responsibility of training most of South Carolina's officers, the state academy has implemented steps to make sure its graduates are ready to interact with the public they have been trained to serve.
The core values of the academy have not changed over the years, Swindler said. And after requests from the public, each new hire in the state is required to undergo a psychological exam that is reimbursed by the academy.
More than anything, becoming an officer means to respond to a calling, he said. If a person does not have a calling to serve, it is not the right profession.
To back up his assessment of what it takes to serve, Swindler recalled statistics stating that about 8 percent of graduates leave the profession one year after leaving the academy, and about 54 percent of graduates leave the profession five years after.
After spending more than 30 years at the Newberry Police Department, the idea of changing careers is foreign to Swindler.
While serving as police chief, Swindler said he saw officers leave the Newberry department, but for other law enforcement agencies.
Some people are not ready for the amount of work, and some cannot live up to the standards expected of them, he said.
About 90 percent of the people officers encounter are cooperative, Swindler said, but sometimes officers will meet someone who is not.
Academy students are taught the best words to use to defuse situations and to avoid being perceived as angry.
"We're not angry. We're servants," he said. "It's a whole lot better to talk than to fight."
According to Swindler, maintaining a positive attitude and keeping a good sense of humor go a long way in the law enforcement profession.
"If I am sane it's because I have a sense of humor," he said.
You can't be sad all the time because your bad day can affect the people you come in contact with, he said.
Always imagine you're being recorded, Swindler said. There is no time today when someone is not watching you, he said, so always do the right thing.
Swindler's final message was for officers to enjoy their jobs while also enjoying the things they care about most.
When you get done with work, go home and love your family, he said.
"It's a good job, but it's not your life," he said.
You work long hours and in the end, Swindler said, you can never get back those days you could have been spending with your family.
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