The Criminal Justice Training Commission voted unanimously against allowing the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office to break from the centralized state’s police academy in providing its own academy training.
Sending all peace officers to a single academy allows for consistent education across the state, commission chair and Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers said.
While not all states use the same model, Washington’s central academy is “applauded” across the country for producing better officers, Myers said.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich had no comment on the vote as of Wednesday evening, Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Mark Gregory said.
“They’re trying to streamline it and make it quicker or shorter,” Myers said. “None of us felt comfortable saying, ‘OK, we’ll do less training.’ We feel like the demand of the public is to do more training.”
One of Myers’ main considerations was transparency about what it takes to become a peace officer in Washington. Decentralized training could muddy the waters, he said.
Knezovich’s presentation to the commission cited high turnover and high costs as reasons to implement a separate academy, Myers said.
“The bottom line is this: Each commissioner on the commission is appointed by the governor. Our responsibility is not to one department or their costs or how hard it is with turnover,” Myers said. “Our responsibility is to the residents of Washington that we have the utmost training and accountability.”
Rather than the state’s sequential model, which requires more than 700 hours of training in class before field training, Spokane County’s academy would use an integrated model, getting recruits in the field immediately.
Monday through Thursday, recruits would learn in class. Fridays, they would train in the field.
The proposed academy would have fewer hours overall though, said Rob Snaza, commissioner and Lewis County Sheriff. Knezovich said the proposed academy would require more hours than the state’s training, but his calculation of hours included Friday field days. In the current model, after passing the academy, recruits get 10 to 12 additional weeks of field training at their agency, Snaza said.
Hours in the classroom are “desperately needed in today’s environment,” Snaza said. “We need to be more consistent than ever”
While it costs more, the public is calling for officers to get more hours training, not fewer, Myers said. Integrated field days rather than a period of field training after classwork could pose risks.
“You get that field training when you’re back from the academy if you pass it. At any given point, if you’re not cutting it, you’re out and the agency is out that money. That’s OK.” Myers said. “One of the commissioners asked, ‘So what if you have a recruit in the car and you get in an officer involved shooting?’ ”
Breaking off from the state’s centralized training could also hurt other departments, Snaza said.
Of the more than 260 departments in the state, only about 10 have the financial capacity to run their own training.
The centralized training allows for recruits from small and large agencies with different specialties to learn together and from each other, Snaza said.
“I’m not saying Spokane wouldn’t give good training, but they should get training that’s consistent across the board,” Snaza said.
“We have some of the finest men and women in law enforcement across the nation, the reason for that is we have one centralized academy.”
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