SC State University Continues to Provide a Safe Haven with the Reserve Officers Program

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gene BrelandGene Breland’s love for SC State University runs deep. He graduated from SC State with a B.S. degree in physical education in 1986. In 1988, Breland acquired a master’s degree in counseling education from the University.  Now director of Intramural Sports, Breland also once received the novel title of reserve officer after working through rigorous training. The distinction of becoming the first officer of its kind for SC State University in 2000 gave Breland the certification required to assist the SC State police department in protecting our institution.

Breland, who worked at the SC State ticket office when he acquired the title, says that he became a reserve officer out of necessity and because he simply loves SC State University. “We were dealing with a lot of money at the ticket office and the police department didn’t have the necessary resources to put a police officer in there all day,” says Breland. “They talked to me about becoming a reserve officer so that I could have a gun, so I became the ticket manager and the officer.”

The reserve officer training program that catapulted Breland into his new position dissipated soon after its conception. “The program ended as leadership changed,” says Breland. “I think people pushed it to the side and did not recertify.” Breland’s strong commitment to his University, however, is what has prompted the resurgence of the reserve officers program and his commitment to recertify. “I learned a lot when I was in the program, so I approached interim police chief Michael Bartley because I enjoyed doing it,” says Breland. “Overall, it’s beneficial for our students and for the entire institution that we serve.”

After Breland’s  request, Bartley has assumed the responsibility of getting the reserve officer training program started. The training, which began in March, consists of an in-house academy equivalent to the training that a certified law enforcement officer receives when matriculating through the Criminal Justice Academy.  Officers do not receive compensation and must be engaged in approximately 630 hours of law enforcement training, encompassing physical training and law aspects. Volunteers must then venture to the SC Criminal Justice Academy and complete their certification test. A firearms and emergency vehicle operations course will follow.  Two-hundred hours with a certified police officer must also be accomplished before participants are allowed to ride solo patrol.  “Once you pass these components, you will be commissioned as a reserve police officer for the state of South Carolina,” notes Bartley.

According to Bartley, this year’s class was handpicked because of their relationship with SC State University. The ten members who meet on the SC State campus each Monday night from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. include University alumni and administrators such as Dr. Charles Smith, vice president of Student Affairs. “It’s a great opportunity to add some additional personnel who are trained and understand the rules and regulations of the police department,” says Smith. “It provides another level of human resources that doesn’t impact the budget. It also helps citizens who become involved understand the rigor and the knowledge base that those trained in law enforcement must possess.”

Pinkey Carter, director for the Brooks Health Center and a volunteer in the reserve officer program agrees, noting the significance of administrators’ involvement. “It’s a totally different discipline, so it gives you an insight into another side of law enforcement,” states Carter. “The class gives you a totally different perspective because the laws are not just cut and dry.” Carter’s decision to participate stemmed from her interest in dealing with students and broadening her understanding of student affairs.

Although a pilot program administered by Bartley and interim major Kenneth Mcaster, the reserve officer program is an initiative that the police department hopes will continue. “We picked a group of people we thought were dedicated to the cause and could actually do what we needed them to do,” says Bartley. “If this is successful, then we’ll probably commit to another class next year. We would like to keep our reserve officer program growing.”

One aspect that will assist in its growth is the involvement of the Orangeburg County Sherriff’s Office. Five members of the office are also engaged in the course. “It’s one of my joint initiatives to reach out to other departments and agencies who train,” states Bartley. “We were going to do the same thing at the same time, so instead of two agencies working apart, we merged on this project and we are the lead instructor on the class.”

The program will end in July, just in time for our new reserve officers to be prepared for the fall session, but not without first undergoing the rigorous training process. Gene Breland sits as his desk, surrounded by a thick book which must be read for the completion of his recertification. “It’s no pay, but it’s beneficial to the people we serve,” says Breland, “and I truly love my University.” 

For more information on the SC State University Police Department’s Reserve Officer Program, call (803) 536-7188.