Academy gets SC police officers road ready

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - A recent high-speed chase involving Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon and other agencies has gotten a lot of attention. But before an officer can even get behind the wheel of a patrol car, they have to learn how to drive defensively at an intense week long precision driving school.

"It's a strict all or nothing type pass fail system," says South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy range instructor John McMahan. "We have a full week dedicated to the driving training."

Every year, McMahan brings 16 classes of 55 cadets up to speed.

"We want to make sure they are safe behind that vehicle because they are ultimately responsible for what happens behind that wheel," says McMahan.

The 1.3 mile driving course was built to train mimic realistic scenarios officers are bound to face on all types of South Carolina's roadways.

"We have three point backing, lane changes both city and highway, off road recovery, braking and steering and we have an area for a construction zone where you have to steer and evade cones," says the range instructor.

But McMahon warns, if cadets hit just one cone on the course it's back to the beginning of their training.

"There's approximately 577 cones on the course and it only takes one to fail," says McMahon. "That represents hitting another vehicle, hitting a tree or hitting a person and you're out of the call."

McMahan says the bottom line of the week long training is safety, both for officers and the communities they patrol.

"It's a tool an officer uses everyday," says McMahan. "It's also one of the highest liability areas that they're going to face when they go out on a call."
To pass the course, an officer must not hit any cones and must complete the driving track in less than four minutes.
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