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Released May 14, 2003

By Christopher Mapp

HATTIESBURG - Since 1998, computers have been an integral tool in the Mississippi Police Corps' training of future law enforcement officers at Camp Shelby Army National Guard Base. Until recently, however, students in the 24-week program had struggled in the classroom with slow dial-up Internet connections, unable to access more than one computer at a time through traditional phone lines.

Not anymore. With a little help from The University of Southern Mississippi's Office of Technology Resources, the Police Corps is now enjoying the wonderful world of wireless. And the results, said Police Corps assistant director Donald Keith, are drawing rave reviews.

"This is no different than being anywhere on Southern Miss's campus," Keith said of the newly wired building at Camp Shelby that allows students to use the Internet without ever plugging into a phone line. Students at both the Hattiesburg and Long Beach campuses already enjoy access to wireless Internet service.

Mississippi Police Corps is a program similar to ROTC in that it pays participants up to $30,000 in scholarships and reimbursement for previous educational expenses. After completing the rigorous training regimen, students in the program are obligated to serve as a police officer for four years, after which they can return to civilian life if they so choose.

A fully funded federal program, the Police Corps houses its administrative offices on the Hattiesburg campus of Southern Miss, which is designated as the agency to serve the entire state. The Police Corps uses Camp Shelby to train students in the classroom, gymnasium, rappel tower and ropes courses. Students live on the base during the six-month course. They conduct driver training at the Bobby Chain Municipal Airport and firearms training at the Hattiesburg Police Department.

The Police Corps trains at Shelby for several reasons. Because students do so much "role playing" and other police-related training, it makes sense to hold the course off campus, Keith said. "We have actors who portray different situations, and a lot of times when we're doing role playing, other students on campus wouldn't know if it was real or not," he said.

The move toward wireless Internet access, Keith said, came at a logical time. When Camp Shelby dedicated a building for exclusive use by the Police Corps, it turned to Southern Miss's Office of Technology Resources (OTR) for its networking expertise.

Two network administrators, Robert Hedgepeth and Knight Northrop, installed the equipment, including a T-1 line that links Shelby to the university's network.

Paige Strickland, director of technology infrastructure with OTR, said that the upgrade allows the Police Corps to operate in a wireless environment and to have access to Southern Miss's own high-speed network. "They can now take full advantage of using the Internet in the classroom," Strickland said. "They could use it before, but it was extremely slow."

Other benefits have been numerous. Besides being limited to one computer at a time, the speeds at which students formerly operated were "incredibly slow," Keith said. "Now we've got speed and multiple users at the same time."

Before Shelby went wireless, students also had to use an infrared printer. Now they can print out material in the classroom, as well as send information to a larger printer and copying machine on the campus of Southern Miss.

While going wireless has increased educational opportunities for the students, it has also increased communication between the staff at Shelby and Southern Miss, Keith said. "This allows me now to work at Shelby much easier because of the high-speed Internet, plus the phone service," he said. "I can do a lot of work and still stay closer to the action here, rather than being removed from it."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM