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Friday, September 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Knezovich to propose pilot for shorter training program for new deputies to state training commission

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich speaks during a Law Enforcement Support Rally sponsored by Family of Faith Community Church on July 18, 2020 in Riverfront Park.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich speaks during a Law Enforcement Support Rally sponsored by Family of Faith Community Church on July 18, 2020 in Riverfront Park. (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich is set to propose his own basic law enforcement academy to the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission that would reduce training time by three months and be the first step to decentralizing training in the state.

It’s unclear, however, if Washington laws allow individual law enforcement agencies to run their own basic law enforcement academies without involvement from the state training commission.

“Washington State is one of only a few states that not only establishes training standards, but also provides Basic Training for Peace Officers and Corrections Officers,” the state training commission’s website reads. “This unique model ensures that every local officer has consistent and high quality training guided by 14 Governor appointed Commissioners and our state legislature.”

Knezovich is set to ask for equivalency for his 36-month pilot program from the state training commission on Wednesday. WSCJTC The state commission currently trains all law enforcement officers in Washington other than state patrol officers, who go through their own program. The commission offers equivalency to individuals who received peace officer certification in 49 other states. Those officers complete an 80-hour course that covers Washington state law before beginning work at a law enforcement agency in the state.

In the past, agencies including the King County Sheriff’s Office and Seattle Police Department have run their own academies with involvement from the state training commission during a hiring surge, when incoming recruits would have a significant waiting period to receive a place in the state-run academy, according to the commission.

Under Knezovich’s plan, recruits would receive their basic training at the sheriff’s training center in Newman Lake with smaller class sizes and immediate introduction to the field training car. Recruits would then take that 80-week course to receive their peace officer certification.

Knezovich asked that the state training commission audit the academy during the pilot program period.

The move could also save the sheriff’s office three quarters of a million dollars, allow for smaller class sizes and would be accredited by an outside agency, Knezovich said.

“We are introducing them to the field training car pretty much immediately,” Knezovich said. “It cuts the training time and the FTO time down significantly.”

But Knezovich said cutting training time doesn’t mean cutting actual training hours. The Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy operated by the state training commission currently has 720 program hours. Knezovich’s proposal would have 1,178 hours, including more than 550 “patrol procedure” hours, the majority of which would be in the care with a field training officer .

Currently, recruits complete pre-academy with the sheriff’s office then head to the Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy . That’s followed by four weeks of post-academy training before recruits spend 12 to 16 weeks in their field training officer car .

Under Knezovich’s proposal, recruits would spend a week in pre-academy, then 18 weeks of in-class instruction with one day each week in a field training officer car. After finishing their defensive tactics courses and becoming qualified on the shooting range, recruits would spend 8 to 10 weeks in a training car full-time.

Total training time would be 27 to 29 weeks before trainees would receive their peace officer certification. Under the current state program, trainees receive their peace officer certification after completing the basic training and before entering the field training officer car phase of training.

For Knezovich, asking for a 36-month pilot program equivalency from the state training commission has been in the works for years.

Knezovich said he began considering moving training in-house “when we were starting to have more and more issues getting people into the academy and WSCJTC threatening to postpone or cut academies here in Spokane, so it’s been probably four years.”

In 2016, Knezovich hired Tony Anderman to be the training director for the Sheriff’s office. Anderman developed curriculum for the state training commission for more than 20 years.

“It helps the process because, basically, I hired one of the best curricula writers in the State of Washington,” Knezovich said.

Anderman said he started out his new role by assessing the sheriff’s training content in comparison with the state training curriculum.

“My philosophy is that it’s not the longer learning, it’s the purposeful learning for the Sheriff’s Office for the deputy,” Anderman said.

Then he developed the training program comprehension standards based on state law and the state curriculum. However, according to state training commission Executive Director Sue Rahr, their curriculum is being updated in accordance with Initiative 940, a voter initiative passed in 2018 that called for changes in police use-of-force and training.

Rahr declined to comment on Knezovich’s upcoming request, saying she values the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office as a stakeholder.

Knezovich criticized the state commission’s training as lacking standardization.

“I know that CJTCs training isn’t standardized. What we’re creating is going to be standardized,” Knezovich said. “We hire people laterally from all over the United States, and they don’t go through CJTC’s academy, they get equivalency.”

Knezovich also criticised the state training commission for their lack of independent outside accreditation, something he says he would pursue for his own academy.

A few companies offer accreditation to law enforcement agencies, along with accrediting individual trainers and vendor courses that agencies use as part of continued education programs for their officers.

Anderman said the sheriff’s office would potentially seek accreditation from the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies .

CALEA advertises its accreditation as ensuring agencies embody the “precepts of community oriented policing,” according to their website.

While the commission previously held accreditation from CALEA, due to funding cuts the agency did not renew the accreditation. WSCJTC is not accredited from either agency.

An IADLEST accreditation costs upwards of $6,000 for the first three years, and more than $3,000 to renew, said Mark Damitio, grant and accreditation manager with IADLEST.

Knezovich said if a pilot program were to get approved, he would ask the state Legislature for funding to seek accreditation.

Recently, the “Killology” training course endorsed by Knezovich has been the subject of many activists’ ire in Spokane. Local activists have called for Knezovich to not only cancel trainer Dave Grossman’s appearance in Spokane in October, but denounce the “warrior-style” training as a whole.

However, Knezovich said this training pilot program and the “Killology” issue are separate issues .

“To wrap this training into Killology is a disservice,” Knezovich said. “The bottom line is Dave Grossman has nothing to do with our training.”

After Knezovich presents his request for equivalency to the commission Wednesday he doesn’t know when a decision will be made.

“We have a date. We propose it and then we wait,” Knezovich said. “We do have a lot of support. When we went to talk to all the commissioners before, we had a large number of them very, very supportive.”

Commission Chair and Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers declined to comment on the proposal prior to Knezovich’s presentation. Other members of the commission contacted by The Spokesman-Review could not be reached for comment.

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