Joey Ulibarri always knew he wanted to help people, and that desire led him to enroll in the Basic Law Enforcement (BLE) program at Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC).
The Calhoun native’s career path led him to follow in his father’s footsteps. The day after he graduated with his certificate in April 2021, he started working at the Calhoun Police Department, where his father has worked for about six years.
“I enjoy talking to people when I’m not on a call,” Ulibarri said. “I really like seeing children and enjoy interacting with them. I like to establish a rapport with business people and to have relationships with the community.”
Ulibarri, 22, sees these interactions as good community policing.
“I like to let people know I’m a human being,” he said. “Just because I’m a police officer doesn’t mean I am any different than anyone else.”
His inherent love for people and empathy lead him to help citizens from answering routine calls to the more unusual, such as helping to rescue a cat from a raccoon trap, he explained.
“I recently helped a woman find her lost iPhone,” he said. “When she hugged me (in gratitude), it really made me feel good.”
Jose Ulibarri Sr., Joey’s father, graduated from GNTC’s Basic Law Enforcement program in November 2012. He also works at the Calhoun Police Department and said he recommended the program to his son.
“I had such a good experience in the academy that when Joey said he wanted to go into law enforcement, too, I knew he would get a good education there,” Ulibarri Sr. said.
“I would tell anyone interested in the Basic Law Enforcement program to come speak to Mr. Pledger who can help them figure out their next steps,” Joey Ulibarri said. “Then I would tell them to learn as much as you can because what the instructors tell you really does help when you get out on the job.”
The staff at GNTC’s Basic Law Enforcement program will help students apply to GNTC and help them complete the Georgia Peace Officer and Training Council (POST) P2 application, James Pledger, BLE program director and instructor, said.
“Both Gary McConathy and I have served with local law enforcement agencies for over 20 years each before coming to GNTC as instructors,” Pledger said. “We only call on instructors who have had years of experience.”
Ulibarri said his favorite course was EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operations for Basic Law Enforcement), in which he learned to drive in high-speed situations.
“Emergency Vehicle Operations gives the student the understanding of patrol car basics,” Pledger said. “The students learn dynamic braking, close quarters maneuvering, skid control and the effects of weight shift. They also learn vehicle maintenance and care.”
Pursuit driving and pursuit intervention technique (PIT) training are considered advanced training and are not part of the EVOC course.
“The class is held at the Rome Airport and gives the student a change of scenery outside the classroom where they are actually doing rather than listening to lectures,” the instructor explained. “It also teaches them skills they may not have had before. I think that is what makes the class enjoyable.”
Ulibarri praised the program because it offers a path to earn an associate degree.
Calhoun Police Chief Tony Pyle commended Ulibarri’s “excellent character, sound judgment, absolute reliability and commitment to the citizens of Calhoun and Gordon County.”
“Officer Ulibarri has shown his ability to handle even the most hectic work load while continuing to make himself available to other officers and citizens in need,” Pyle stated. “He performs his duties in a professional manner and has set the standard for other young officers to follow.”
Pyle’s satisfaction with Ulibarri’s performance reflects the caliber of the graduates from GNTC’s Law Enforcement Academy, he said.
“The graduates of GNTC’s program have been some of the best employees our department has ever had,” he said.
“Joey is personable and well mannered. His father came through this program several years ago, and he is also personable and well mannered, so I expected no less from Joey,” Pledger said. “It takes all kinds of personalities to round out a police department, and Joey fits right in. I believe the different customers of the police department will find Joey to be a man of integrity.”
Ulibarri used the HOPE and Zell Miller Scholarship programs, which enabled him to graduate college with minimal debt.
Ulibarri’s future plans are to finish his bachelor’s degree in Information Technology at Western Governors University by the end of the year and then to go back to GNTC to complete an associate degree in Criminal Justice.
Ulibarri Sr. described working with his son as a “surreal experience.”
“I never would have thought I would be working with my son in law enforcement,” he said, adding it’s a good feeling to know that he and the other Calhoun police officers have his son’s back when he’s on a call.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma or a certificate in aviation, business, health, industrial or public service career paths. This past year, 11,134 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. GNTC has an annual credit enrollment of 8,528 students and an additional enrollment of 2,606 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training and Georgia Quick Start. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.