North Myrtle Beach, SC (WMBF) - Police are ditching the desk and hitting the road for their new police training program.
Police Training Officer, or PTO, gives new officers opportunities to dive into the community head-first before having patrols of their own.
Officer Aaron Best is a training officer for the program and explains this is the first year North Myrtle Beach is using this approach.
"Our guys come out of the academy and they're trained a certain way. This is the letter of the law and this is how we're doing it," Officer Best said. "But when you come out here and you start doing it with the citizens, you find this at the academy aren't always black and white."
Officer Best said the community has a big say in what they do and how they do it, and the program is meant to break the barrier between officers and the community by making that first-name-basis relationship.
J.T Martin is 11 weeks into the program and feels it forces him to take charge.
"It makes you more aware of yourself and lets you learn from your mistakes instead of being told what to do," he said.
Training Officer Best describes the most unique part of the program: the addition of the N.P.E, or the Neighborhood Portfolio Exercise.
"They go find one part of the community or neighborhood basically, and they go and try to find out crimes stats, the leadership in the community, who is involved in the community, are there any neighborhood watch programs," Officer Best explained.
Martin's focus is the center of town, the Ocean Drive area, where he is noticing one problem in particular: "cars broken into and things stolen out of them," he said. "More than what we would usually have. So that's been one of our problems and that's one thing I'm really focusing on and trying to find a solution.
Officer Best hopes this program builds trust within the community so people feel they can go to officers with problems sooner rather than later ultimately stopping problems before they happen.
North Myrtle Beach Police Department's first officer graduated the program Monday and he will be on his first lone patrol on Friday night.