Oxford drug training

An instructor with the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy shows Oxford Mayor Alton Craft methods that criminals use to traffic drugs and money on interstates. (Kirsten Fiscus/The Anniston Star)

To law enforcement agencies, the Interstate 20 corridor, which runs through Oxford, is a pipeline for drug and human trafficking.

For that reason, Oxford is uniquely positioned to be a training ground for police across the country, officials say. The Oxford Police Department, in tandem with the Mississippi-based Regional Counterdrug Training Academy, announced Thursday that the Police Department will host the academy’s first satellite training center.

“We work very well with the RCTA out of Mississippi,” Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said of the academy. “Last year, we trained over 400 law enforcement officers with them.”

Tim Rutledge, the director of the academy, said having classes in Oxford has extended the academy’s reach.

“We’ve been able to train law enforcement from all over the Southeast,” Rutledge said. “But we frequently have people from further than that.”

On Thursday, the academy was working with about 40 officers and deputies from as far as Texas and Indiana at the Oxford Civic Center. Students inspected trucks, trailers and tankers for hidden compartments, tapping on the walls and the floors.

“In the tanker, it’s partitioned off for one section to be filled with fuel and the other section to fit about 10 or 12 people,” Capt. Thomas Stoute, a training officer, said. “One of these trailers has a false bottom, and in that trailer bed over there about $100,000 in cash was stowed in an axle.”

Oxford police training officer Frank Mayo said he hopes to host as many classes as possible with the academy.

“An officer’s best weapon is his brain, and this hands-on training only increases their knowledge,” Mayo said.

Jesse Warner, a police officer in Beaumont, Texas, traveled nearly 11 hours with his partner to attend the training.

“We’re just outside of Houston, where a lot of narcotics are brought down the interstate,” Warner said. “They’ll come through Houston and continue to Atlanta.”

Warner, a veteran in law enforcement, said this training is the best drug-centered training he’s received.

“Being able to look at and put hands on this equipment is invaluable,” he said. “The criminals are constantly evolving their techniques, so it’s helpful to see it before we encounter it on the job.”

​Staff writer Kirsten Fiscus: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @kfiscus_star.