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Officers train for the fight against methamphetamine

Learning something through reading about it will only take you so far, which is why Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver places an emphasis on hands-on-training and experience for his deputies.

Last week, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office hosted a 40-hour meth lab training class offered by the MERIT GROUP, a nationally recognized training organization based out of Erie, Penn.

Oliver said two members of the sheriff’s office, Nathan Weeks and Clint Holcombe, participated in the class along with officers from Walker, Jackson and Winston counties as well as from the Winfield, Bear Creek and Irondale police departments.

“We had originally contacted this group to see about having our two officers participate in the training sessions they offered, but we found out that we could host a class here in Franklin County that other officers from the surrounding area could participate in,” Oliver said.

“This ended up being a more cost-effective option, so the guys from MERIT have been here teaching the group different techniques for handling meth labs.”

Out of all the crime-related issues that occur in Franklin County, methamphetamine use and manufacture ranks right at the top, Oliver said.

“This is a major problem in our area and sometimes it’s something we deal with on a daily basis,” he said.

“We are constantly being called out to investigate a possible meth lab or to deal with a confirmed meth lab, so this is the kind of training our officers really need.”

Jake Kelton, CEO and founder of MERIT, said the week-long class teaches officers how to deactivate the chemicals in the meth labs and how to properly dispose of a meth lab in a way that is both safe and effective.

“These officers need to know how to be safe when dealing with a meth lab,” Kelton said. “If they go in without the proper protective equipment, they can get sick and they can get sick for years to come. It will tear up your throat and your lungs just breathing these chemicals.”

As part of the training, officers destroyed 30 meth labs on Friday that have been in secure storage after being discovered and confiscated in Franklin County.

Kelton said most of these are the ammonia-based “one-pot” labs that are the most dangerous because they are the most likely to explode.

“This is why having our officers receive this certification through this training was so important,” Oliver said.

“It is a benefit to our department to have officers trained in meth lab disposable so we don’t have to pay someone else to come in and clean it up and dispose of it. With the number of meth labs we deal with, it becomes costly.

“We can also cut down on the number of labs we have to store because we have officers who can get rid of them in a more timely manner.”

Kelton said after taking the 40-hour training course, the officers would be capable to handle several different scenarios involving meth.

“I’d put these guys against anyone in the country,” he said. “They’re very well-trained and a great asset to the community.”