Through Partnerships with Sister Schools, South Piedmont Community College Provides Advanced Training to State’s Law Enforcement Personnel

Law enforcement officers throughout North Carolina are participating in advanced management training thanks to collaboration between South Piedmont Community College and two of its sister institutions.   

“The Management Development Program equips participants with the skills and knowledge they need to take the next steps in their careers, effectively manage their teams, and provide deeper levels of service to our communities,” said South Piedmont President Dr. Maria Pharr.

“Simply put, this training contributes to safer communities. We are proud to partner with two fellow North Carolina Community College System institutions, Mayland and Sandhills, to make it available to our state’s law enforcement personnel.”

The Management Development Program had long been offered through the North Carolina Justice Academy, a division of the state’s Department of Justice. A few years back, the program was discontinued. Alumni of the program reached out to Mike Smith, a Management Development Program alumnus himself, as well as director of law enforcement training at South Piedmont.

“The alumni association recognized the value of the program. They were seeking someone to pick up the flag,” Smith said. “We said yes.”

Designed for lieutenants, majors, captains, and those wanting to occupy those ranks at small- and mid-sized agencies, the Management Development Program is an 11-month commitment.

During the program, participants are exposed to topics and issues critical to operating a modern, professional law enforcement organization. Topics include leadership vs. management, incident command, and budgeting. Participants are also required to complete a physical training component and community service.

The program begins each January. Participants complete part of the curriculum remotely, but each month, they must attend one weeklong class in person.  

Here’s where South Piedmont needed the partnership of Mayland and Sandhills.

“During the in-person sessions, we need large classroom spaces, outdoor space to conduct physical training, and overnight accommodations for our participants — and we need to be able to provide all of these things at little to no cost,” Smith said.

There were two sites that fit the bill: the North Carolina Forestry Service Mountain Training Facility located in Newland and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Samarcand Training Academy in Jackson Springs. These facilities are located within the service areas for Mayland Community College and Sandhills Community College, respectively.

South Piedmont envisioned alternating between the two sites. But before it could use the facilities, South Piedmont needed both institutions to sign Instructional Service Agreements, granting permission for the classes to take place within their service areas.

Mayland and Sandhills did so readily.

“The agreement between Sandhills Community College and South Piedmont allows South Piedmont access to Samarcand Training Academy. Sandhills is happy to allow access to this great resource in our service area. Ongoing law enforcement training is important to all of our communities,” said Dr. Rebecca Roush, senior vice president of academic affairs and institutional planning at Sandhills.  

By using the Mountain Training Facility and the Samarcand Training Academy, South Piedmont is able to offer the program at minimal cost. When they’re at the Mountain Training Facility, participants pay approximately $350 per week for room and board. When they’re at Samarcand, room and board is free.

“The Forestry Service and the Department of Public Safety make it very affordable to utilize the facilities. By being able to conduct our classes there, we’re able to minimize the cost to our participants and ensure that officers across the state are able to access this program,” Smith said.  

In partnering with Mayland and Sandhills, South Piedmont is also able to take advantage of other features within their service areas, providing unique experiences to participants.

For instance, during their time at the Mountain Training Facility, located within Mayland’s service area, participants complete the Shackleton Endurance Challenge, which includes a hike up Grandfather Mountain.

“The challenge commemorates Irish-born polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. In the early 1900s, he attempted to reach the south pole on his ship, the Endurance. The ship become trapped in the ice, which forced the crew to survive in the frigid temperatures for 18 months. Shackleton eventually sailed in a whale boat to South Georgia, a trip of over 800 miles that took 16 days. He was able to get help and rescue his men. Not one member of the crew was lost,” Smith said.

“The Shackleton Challenge is a great teambuilding exercise, as well as an exercise in leadership. Being able to conduct the challenge on Grandfather Mountain makes it both more challenging and more memorable for our participants.” 

Participants have also visited the Biltmore Estate, also located within Mayland’s service area.

The locations are ideal for relationship-building, which is one of the main objectives of the program, said Coordinator Bob Garbett.

“When they’re on-site, the participants will often bring their grills, or cook a lowcountry boil or a spaghetti dinner, or go out to eat once or twice. They enjoy going on hikes together as well,” he said.

“These settings enhance the networking aspect of the program. Participants create relationships with one another, and they continue to learn from one another long after they complete the program.”

Added Emerald Isle Chief of Police Michael Panzarella:

“I graduated last November, and to this day, I keep in touch with my classmates. We know we can rely on each other and share our ideas with one another. We’re very fortunate to have been part of this program, and we’re very grateful for the partnerships that make it possible.”

In addition to Emerald Isle, officers participating in the program represent agencies from all corners of North Carolina. They laud the experience South Piedmont, in partnership with Mayland and Sandhills has been able to provide.

“This is a great program. I highly recommend that anyone interested in being in leadership take it,” said Monique Holt, a lieutenant with the Monroe Police Department who completed the program in November 2022.

“You learn that leadership is about setting yourself aside and putting others first. When you lead people, you should be leading them to be better than you. That’s the difference between leadership and management.”

Learn more about South Piedmont’s law enforcement training programs at https://spcc.edu/areas-of-study/public-safety/law-enforcement-training/law-enforcement/.


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