HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport Police Officer Dolton Bradley is recovering and will soon be able to return for limited duty. Before being shot while on duty, Bradley was scheduled to begin the Harrison County Law Enforcement Training Academy this week.
Despite the recent shooting of Officer Bradley and other police officers across the country, there are still many people pursing jobs in law enforcement in South Mississippi.
"Being in the academy is tough. It's not a cake walk," Harrison County Sheriff's Office Recruit Antoine Brooks said.
Tuesday was day two, and three students had already dropped out of the Harrison County Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Academy. The training is tough, both physically and mentally, but academy director Capt. Louis Elias said it is necessary because it can be the difference between life or death.
"The state mandates 480 curriculum hours," Elias said. "We go above and beyond that and do 513 hours. And of those 513 hours, about 312 are directly related to survival training."
The men and women in the class understand wearing the uniform means putting their lives on the line and it is a risk they are passionate about taking.
"It started when I was a kid," Adams County Sheriff's Department Recruit Henry Frank said. "My dad went through the same academy and is a deputy with the Adams County Sheriff's Department, and I just followed in his footsteps. I have always cared about helping other people. And once I finish in 11 weeks, I will be able to finally do what I've always wanted to do."
"I've always loved people," Harrison County Law Enforcement Training Academy Student Robert Louis said. "I've always been a part of my community and always liked that protecting aspect."
Even at a time when there is a lot of hostility towards police, enrollment at the academy remains high.
"Any profession you find you are going to have someone that doesn't like you," Louis said. "You could work at McDonalds down the street and you are going to find some angry customer who is yelling at you and wanting to beat you up for getting the burger wrong, so that doesn't sway me one single bit."
"We go through a lot," Brooks said. "We have more people out there that don't like us than do like us, but as long as we come together as one team and fight and help motivate and support us, everything will be okay."
Capt. Elias said the relationship between law enforcement and the community is South Mississippi is better than many places.
"I think we enjoy an earned trust between community and law enforcement agencies on the Coast, and also an enormous amount of support shown from the community to our law enforcement agencies," Elias said. "We are thankful for that, and in our training, we hope to maintain that trust."