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Longview firefighters obtain peace officer training, licensing

By Robyn Claridy rclaridy@news-journal.com
Aug. 17, 2011 at 11 p.m.

Eleven Longview firefighters earned an additional title Wednesday after graduating from the city fire department's first-ever police academy.

Among a crowd of more than 100 family, friends, city and county officials, the firefighters - along with three Gregg County Airport Public Safety deputies and a White Oak Police Department employee - were awarded peace officer diplomas. All 15 graduates are certified or volunteer firefighters.

In a charge to the graduating class, Chief J.P. Steelman said he was proud of each student who powered through the academy and thanked them for their service.

"This equipped each of you to respond no matter what the call. You are ready to respond if it's an EMS call, fire call or law enforcement call. This diversified you all," Steelman said. "Continue to use your abilities. Thank you for what you have done, are doing and what you will do."

In a speech to the class, Fire Marshal Johnny Zackary, who graduated as well, said the course will help with interagency collaboration.

"We help people; that's what we love doing. It's helping people on their bad days," Zackary said.

The push for the class was for all law enforcement agencies to work together to better serve Longview and Gregg County.

Joshua Tanner was named valedictorian of the class, and Joseph Bostock was awarded the title "Top Gun."

Although police officers constantly train to maintain their certifications, Longview Fire Department officials said they approached the police academy as a means to be proactive with firefighters' certification.

Zackary said he and a few men from the fire marshal's office took the course as a requirement for their positions.

The remainder of the firefighters who completed peace officer training could be future candidates for the fire marshal's office or other positions in the city, Zackary said.

Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said three Gregg County employees who received peace officer certification are Gregg County Airport Public Safety deputies and also are certified paramedics and firefighters.

"These deputies had to be cross trained as well, and this class was a good fit for them because of their training," Cerliano said.

The lone woman in the class, Jamie Kidder, is a dispatcher at the White Oak Police Department, a volunteer firefighter and the wife of Gregg County Fire Marshal David Kidder.

Most students in the class received an $800 grant covering tuition from the East Texas Council of Governments.

The peace officer course is typically taught five days a week for six months or as a night class at the East Texas Police Academy in Kilgore.

The collaboration allowed employees who were already working jobs in emergency response to be taught on the job.



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