August 1, 2007 in Idaho

NIC in line for police training academy

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
 

An effort to spread police officer training opportunities across the state will start at North Idaho College.

The college has been in talks with the state academy in the Boise area about offering classes, and eventually a full police academy, in Coeur d’Alene. The Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy, known as POST, still needs to hire someone to oversee the process and its council must approve the plan. But the group’s larger goal of decentralizing training services will begin at the community college in Coeur d’Alene, POST Executive Director Jeffry Black said.

“We really just need to get a protocol in place and test an operation in northern Idaho,” Black said. “We have a vision. We know where we want to go. We know how to get there. As soon as we get the go-ahead, we’ll pull the trigger.”

The group hopes to give a proposal to its council this winter. The targeted opening date of fall 2008 is tentative, Black said.

Police training is one of several partnerships NIC is looking to create with emergency service providers like firefighters and paramedics. First aid and CPR training classes that began last month are taught by the fire department’s instructors but administered through NIC.

“It seemed like natural partnerships,” said Barbara Hanson, NIC’s executive director of program development.

The bulk of police training is at POST headquarters in Meridian, making it expensive for agencies in North Idaho to send officers there for training.”Actually having the actual academy here on a regional basis once or twice a year would be awesome,” Kootenai County sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said.

The first step, Black said, will be to add more regional training classes for existing officers and work up to a full, 10-week police training academy once a year. Of the 200,000 hours of instruction the group gave last year, just 20,000 hours were given outside Meridian, Black said.

The state’s population boom makes decentralizing the training center necessary, he said. “From a physical facilities standpoint, we’re really maxed out.”

And facilities at NIC, the College of Southern Idaho and in eastern Idaho mean the cost of starting new classes and training programs will be minimal, he said.

“It seems silly to build additional facilities when we already have bricks and mortar,” Black said.

Instructors are already available in North Idaho. Wolfinger taught training courses in Boise for 10 years and teaches classes in NIC’s criminal justice department.

The training opportunities NIC hopes to add would complement the criminal justice degree program by helping create a “career pathway,” Hanson said. A student could complete training courses and seek employment, or pursue a certificate or degree from NIC and move to complete a bachelor’s degree, she said.

The fire academy that NIC hopes to start would give students similar opportunities, Hanson said.

The First Aid and CPR training that began in July is “just phase one of the many things we want to do,” said Coeur d’Alene Fire Chief Kenny Gabriel. The department has a new training tower and station that can be used by NIC for basic fire instruction courses.

“The hope is to partner on essential classes just to get the ball rolling,” he said.

Spokane Falls Community College offers a fire science degree, something Gabriel said there’s great demand for locally. NIC is looking to team up with the community college to bring more classes to North Idaho, Hanson said.

“It’s kind of like a marriage, if you will. I’ve got this stuff. You’ve got this stuff. So let’s put all our stuff together and build a household,” she said.


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