Augusta University’s Newest Police Officer Dedicates Career to Public Service, Despite Life-Changing Accident – Jagwire

David Pouler has made a career of helping people – and he hasn’t let anything get in his way.

The fact that Pouler lost the lower part of his left leg hasn’t slowed him down as a firefighter for 12 years, and certainly not as a county casualty advocate for a year and a half.

Even the mud races and obstacle courses he started participating in last year couldn’t slow the 39-year-old down. In fact, it helped him lose nearly 100 pounds, allowing him to thrive during the rigors of training at the police academy.

He mastered his latest challenge by graduating from the Columbia County campus of the Georgia Public Service Training Center on June 24 to become the Augusta University Police Department’s newest police officer. The 12-week course included physical training, classroom training, weapons and tactical training, as well as training on how to handle different situations that can arise in law enforcement, and Pouler earned the GPA the highest among those in its class.

David Pouler’s daughter pins her badge at the graduation ceremony on June 24. [Kim Ratliff/Augusta University]

“The academy was stressful at times, both physically and mentally, but being able to lean on my fellow cadets, having constant encouragement from everyone at AUPD, and most importantly the tremendous support of my wife, Kadi, m ‘helped get through that,” Pouler said. .

“What drew me to Augusta University and wanting to be a police officer here was my work over the past year and a half in victim advocacy and my time as a firefighter before that,” Pouler said. “I found it very rewarding to be a victims’ rights advocate, and I loved the work and being able to help people, but I always missed being on the front lines.

“I started looking around at different agencies and just saw an ad for the position with AUPD, and I wanted to see what it was all about,” Pouler continued.

“So I researched their website and Facebook page, looking at different things and what drew me to AUPD was the interactions I saw them having with students, faculty and staff, and even the community. It felt like a lot of positive interaction, despite what you see in the news or media about law enforcement and the community. I really enjoyed it and I think it This is what being a police officer is about: getting involved in the community with those you serve, and that’s what I’ve seen with the AUPD website.

man kneeling behind parked car
David Pouler graduated June 24 from the Columbia County campus of the Georgia Public Service Training Center. Pouler completed the 12-week program with the highest GPA in her class. [Photo courtesy of Georgia Public Service Training Center]

During his short time with the AUPD, Pouler has already had a profound impact on members of the department.

“David is an exceptional young man who has shown tremendous courage and determination to not only succeed, but to excel at the police academy in an effort to serve his community. This should inspire us all to do better,” said James Lyon, assistant vice president and chief public safety and police officer at Augusta University.

Captain Bryant Leverett echoed Lyon’s sentiments saying: “David shows resilience, discipline and dedication. David is the perfect role model for all of us on how to face and overcome challenges. He has the right mindset and attitude to serve in the law enforcement profession.

Lt. Waylon Potts was heavily involved in bringing Pouler on board, and through their interactions, he came to believe that Pouler would be a valuable asset to the team.

“Since we met David, he has always conducted himself with professionalism and quiet confidence. David has shown that he wants to win it all and that he would not accept anything handed to him,” Potts said.

“He has more than earned my respect, and more importantly, he has earned the respect of everyone around him. David has leadership qualities that I am delighted to see him use throughout his career. always bring the best people into our profession and more specifically into our agency, and we have been very successful on both counts with David.”

The accident that changed his life

As a 13-year-old boy living in Grovetown, Pouler was like any other boy his age. Playing football was his first love and he was beginning to experience the social anxieties that come with early adolescence.

Then, on April 26, 1996, Pouler added a completely different set of challenges.

old newspaper clipping describing a train accident
The April 27, 1996 Augusta Chronicle article detailing Pouler’s accident.

That morning, Pouler was running alongside a train near the Robinson Avenue level crossing in an attempt to make it in time for a school outing – but he slipped on rocks shortly before 7 a.m. and his left leg was crushed by the train. It was cut about three inches above the ankle.

Pouler was taken to the Medical College of Georgia where he and his family were told surgeons could not reattach his lower leg due to the severity of the injury.

“I never thought I was going to die or anything like that,” Pouler said, looking back on the day that changed her life. “I don’t know if it was because I was young and didn’t realize how serious it was, but my main concern was playing football. When the doctors said I could never again playing football, I was even more disappointed because it was my first love growing up.

But Pouler set out to prove the doctors wrong.

In what would be just a small glimpse of her willpower and determination, Pouler was able to take her first steps with the aid of a prosthesis.

“As soon as I took my first steps in a prosthesis, I knew I was going to play football again,” Pouler said.

Pouler was able to try and play football only three and a half months after his accident, but the experience did not last long: he had to undergo further surgery to repair his leg.

Despite the setback, he was finally able to continue playing the sport he loved. “During my senior year, I ended up starting out as a defensive tackle on my high school football team, and to this day, it’s probably one of my proudest and most fulfilling moments in as an amputee.”

Overcome a different obstacle (course)
man running an obstacle course
Pouler is taking part in his first mud race in 2021. [Photo courtesy of David Pouler]

Part of what made Pouler successful while training at the police academy is something he started last year for fun: competing in mud races and obstacle courses. .

At this time last year, Pouler estimated he weighed around 264 pounds. His brother-in-law Sgt. Drew Kovacs, a cop with the Athens-Clark County Police Department, had posted photos of mud runs and obstacle courses he participated in, and Pouler found it exciting.

As he is known to do, Pouler decided to give it a try.

In the first six months after deciding to attempt a mud race, Pouler lost 40 pounds before his first race.

His success in that first race encouraged him to do more, which motivated him to continue his weight loss journey. He hopes to run more races later this year.

man lifting weights
Pouler lost 40 pounds before his first race and has lost nearly 100 pounds since beginning his transformation. [Photo courtesy of David Pouler]

When Pouler started at the academy earlier this year he weighed 200lbs and at his last physical assessment he is now closer to 187.

“It’s about the lightest I weighed as an adult, and I love it,” Pouler said. “I was actually researching the physical demands of becoming a police officer, and decided to try and get some training that revolved around that. So, I continued from there.

What made Pouler successful was the service and equipment he received from “great people,” as he describes them, at Augusta Orthotics and Prosthetics.

“They helped me so much, and I couldn’t have done what I’ve done so far without their help. They’re just great people,” Pouler said.

Not new to public service

While the mud is flowing and being a police officer may be new to Pouler, a career in public service is not.

man standing with arms crossed in front of fire truck
Pouler began his public service in 2007 as a volunteer firefighter with Columbia County Fire Rescue. He was a firefighter for nearly 12 years before becoming a victim advocate in Aiken County in 2020. [Photo courtesy of David Pouler]

In 2007, Pouler joined Columbia County Fire Rescue as a volunteer firefighter, and the following year joined Grovetown Public Safety’s fire division before returning to Columbia County Fire Rescue in 2009 as a full-time firefighter. .

Aside from a short stint helping design and fabricate prosthetics, he stayed in Columbia County until 2020 before taking a job in Aiken County as a victims’ advocate, where he worked until February this year. With Aiken County, Pouler has worked with victims of various crimes, but has primarily worked with people experiencing domestic violence.

During his time as a firefighter – a role in which your partner could rely on you to get them out of a burning building – Pouler had to reassure his teammates that despite being an amputee he can still play .

“One of the first things my first partner at the Grovetown Fire Department said to me was, ‘I don’t feel comfortable fighting fires with you because of this’ and he pointed my leg,” Pouler said. “I told him I couldn’t be mad at him because he didn’t know, but I said, ‘I’m going to have to change my mind then. “”

And a week later, Pouler had the chance to change his partner’s perspective with their first structure fire. Unsurprisingly, Pouler left a positive impact.

“He came up to me afterwards and was like, ‘I take back everything I said. You rocked that call. That’s how I’ve been trying to be ever since,'” Pouler said.

“People might not understand, so I just tell them, ‘Okay, I understand you feel that way, but let me show you why you’re wrong.’ I’m just doing what I can to show them that I can still do these things.

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