Deputies training online to secure new court building

LAWRENCEVILLE - In just a couple of weeks, sheriff's deputies will have a new courthouse to secure.

But with an already overcrowded jail, getting in some training for the deputies hasn't been easy, officials said.

A new computer program from across the Atlantic is helping deputies, both new and old, get schooled on when to conduct a full-body search, how to identify a threat in a metal detector and other security measures.

"We knew we were going to have to have some training and do it quickly," Sgt. Marie Tidwell said.

Tidwell said the online training course takes about nine hours, and deputies can work through the lessons during breaks and down time while working to secure the courthouse.

On Tuesday, the last of 10 deputies being transferred to courthouse security detail will begin training in order to open the Recorder's and Juvenile Court facility by the end of the month.

"We're squeezed," Sheriff Butch Conway said. "We just sent people over to GJAC (the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center) and we have to send more to open the Recorder's Court building."

The county jail is severely overcrowded, and the department is trying to hire more deputies to staff an expansion expected to open later this year, on top of the increased courthouse security since the deadly rampage at the Fulton County Courthouse last March.

Tidwell said the training is just as important for the new building, which will house Recorder's and Juvenile courts less than a mile from the justice center in Lawrenceville. She said juveniles often cause more problems than adult inmates and about 20 to 25 inmates have to be taken to traffic court every day, on top of the hundreds that drive themselves to the building.

Tidwell said the deputies will go through a three-day class next week, then spend time on the computer training and doing training in the field. Veterans are also going through the program.

"You ought to know it by now," Deputy Larry Kellogg said while working on the program. He's worked at the courthouse since 1997, but was getting ribbed by a rookie for failing one of the system's many tests.

Tidwell said the computer keeps up with how the deputies do and allows for supervisors to make their own lesson plans to work on a problem area.

The Smart Approach system, designed in England, is certified by the federal Transportation Security Administration.

When all of the county's deputies complete the program, Gwinnett will, for the first time, be certified in security, Tidwell said.

"It's that extra step that keeps our folks safe. The more we know, the safer everybody is," she said.