SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF)- The Surfside Beach Police Department congratulated their third graduating class, and their students say, it's been an eye-opening experience.
"Every minute of their twelve hour shift, they're there to protect us, and I got to see first-hand how much they are out there protecting us," Elena Nicholas said. Elena Nicholas is one of the 16 who graduated Wednesday night.
She says the class included many hands-on police activities, plus a ride along."I know that police officers are always putting their lives on the line, I never realized how much until I am actually in the car and watching when they pull somebody over...how they approach the car, how they have no idea whether the person they are pulling over has a gun or a knife," Nicholas said.
Elena also got a first-hand look at the teamwork that goes into each patrol.
"Within what I am going to say almost felt like seconds, there was another officer either driving by to make sure that we were okay or stopping to make sure that the officer was safe," Nicholas said.
Lt. Kenny Hofmann with the Surfside Beach Police Department feels police can't do their job without the support from the community, a support system they've seen grow tremendously.
"Now I kind of know what to look for, and I have a business here in Surfside, so I feel like I am more aware of what's going on around me and I also know that they are just a phone call away," Nicholas agreed.
Lt. Hofmann says they are noticing a strong decrease in one of their main off-season problems: beach-front home burglaries. Hofmann feels it's because of this program, which everyone agrees needs to grow.
"I think if more people did this they would understand what the police go through every single day. I don't think most people have a clue as to what's going on out there," Nicholas said.
Lt. Hofmann says the department is working on starting an Alumni Association Group to help graduates stay involved with the police department after graduation. If you are interested in the program, contact the Surfside Beach Police Department.