Tuesday, February 17, 2009

About the Academy

I've had this stereotype of the academy in my mind. Probably from television, but I've pictured some kind of a drill seargent belittling and swearing in the faces of these hopeful would-be cops, and people being thrown out on a whim and being reduced to tears. Maybe it's like that in some academies. I don't know. My desire for drama wishes that were true in HF's academy. Mostly, I have been curious why Calamity Jane and others that do some pretty crazy things haven't been dismissed. He explained to me how it's done in our state. I thought you might find his explanation interesting. I'm also curious if it's done like this anywhere else.

In our state you have the centralized POST academy. In addition to that the state has authorized several satellite academies at various universities and colleges throughout the state. If a department hires you before you get certified, then they send you to the main POST academy. There you get trained full time, five days a week, and you get paid. Most officers in our state sponsor themselves through one of the satellite academies.

Through a satellite academy, students attend the POST certification training for course credit. The satellite academies host classes five days a week in the evenings and all day on Saturdays. Putting yourself through the academy takes approximately twelve months to accomplish with the curriculum being divided into two sessions: The first session lasts three months then there is a four month break. After the break the second session lasts five months and culminates in the student being awarded their certification to be a peace officer anywhere in the state.

So a program that consists of eight months of instruction takes a year to accomplish because of the break between sessions whereas if you get sponsored by a department and sent to the main POST academy it takes you considerably less time. On top of all that when you go through a satellite academy you have to pay your own way and it's expensive.

As a result of this set up it benefits most departments financially to not sponsor anyone through the academy. The majority of the officers in our state sponsored themselves through the academy without the guarantee of a job waiting for them at the end of their training.

There are some benefits and drawbacks to this arrangement in our state. The benefit is that you get a lot of really dedicated people who want to be cops. The sacrifice required acts as a form of filter that weeds out the un-dedicated. Unfortunately, once someone pays their tuition, it is very difficult to get kicked out of the satellite academies because they're doing it through a college or university and have paid for a service. The only way they can get the boot is if they violate rules of conduct or some other extenuating circumstance where the director asks them to leave and refunds them their money. The other drawback is that just about anyone can get into the satellite academies and get access to training that you wouldn't want everyone to have. Yes, the office of POST reviews the applications to the class and some people get weeded out during the initial background checks but others who wouldn't necessarily be great cops get through. A benefit to combat problem people getting hired on is with the embedded peer review system. At the end of each session class members review each other and their anonymous reviews are kept on file with the academy. When a graduate applies for a job with an agency, those in charge of hiring typically call the academy and get access to the peer reviews. This undoubtedly poses its own set of problems but that's how it is here in our state. It's far from perfect but it's the system we have to operate in.


Dori said...

Wow! That makes it seem like you guys are in a totally different country--not just state! Didn't you say he already has a job with a department? So is he sponsored or are you guys paying his way?

Here each department runs its own academy. Cadets are hired first--extensive interview sessions, physical, psych evals, background checks--then start the academy (6 months) at salary and benefits. An academy class usually dwindles down to almost half the size by the end. Then they're on a year's probation with the first 3 months or so being with a Field Training Officer. They have to pass a FTO board before they're finally cut loose on their own. There are *always* one or two that seem to slip through the system and need to be "retrained" or cut loose.

Fascinating how each state is different! Stuff I never even thought about!

Momma Val said...

My husband did not go to our state's police academy. He went to a VERY INTENSE suburban law enforcement academy that is at a very nice local junior college and none of the officers pay for their academy, it is paid for by their departments. From what I understand, Illinois State Police Academy is or as like you mentioned with the drill sergeant and the tears, etc. Our neighbor went there quite a few years ago in the 80's and a bunch of the men were quitting because it was so bad. My FIL also went there even before that and said it was pretty tough and men were barely making it emotionally when he went in the 70's. I have no idea what it's like now but from what I understand most of the smaller academies are NOT like this, Thank God! There were a few odd characters in my husbands who did not make it cause they lacked focus and determination. Had no idea what it was all about and failed the tests etc. Despite the fact that my husband went to a better PA, he still got really nuts when he went. Glad those days are over :)

mrs. fuzz said...

HF's situation is that his chief is paying for all his gear and uniforms while HF pays all the tuition. When he graduates he will have a spot on the department as a reserve officer while he FTO's for 14 weeks. After that, he'll get picked up as a full time officer with the department.

Slamdunk said...

Good topic Mrs. F.

I was fortunate to be hired by a department that ran its own academy and they paid me while I attended. I would not have been able to self-fund after 3.5 years of paying for an undergraduate degree.

Berserk said...

I've worked in a couple of states.

The first one had a state run academy that departments could send their recruits to for certification. Departments also had the option of running their own academy, and there were several colleges that put on an academy. Officers were allowed to be commissioned (and work the streets) before they were certified, as long as they were enrolled in an academy within a year of being commissioned. So I went through FTO before I went through the (state run) academy. That last is a particularly bad idea, in my opinion.

In my current state, POST regulates police academies but I don't think that there is a state run academy at all. Potential officers can either pay their own way through a private academy, or they can hire on with a department that runs its own (which is what I did).

Both of my academies were pretty intense, with drill instructors screaming at us and people getting kicked out for the kind of nonsense that you've described CJ doing.

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Anonymous said...

In our state only one department runs their own academy - the state highway patrol. Otherwise there are a couple of choices for programs at colleges. If you are lucky enough to be hired before you go through, you get a free ride, like you said. Not everybody is that lucky. My husband paid his own way.

Stephanie said...

Josh's academy was department run. He started in July and did it full time 5 days a week and graduated in January. He was paid, his equipment was given to him, and he was given a position right away with a Training officer for I think 3 months and then was on his own. His academy was pretty tough. They had PT everyday, a lot of test, a lot of combat drills, shooting at the range, etc. He said when they first started it was the whole "drill sgt" kind of thing, but by the end, things were more of a "brotherhood" type of feel.

Mostly what I remember is him leaving very early in the morning, getting home 12 hours later, and then going to our room to study, clean his gun, shine his shoes, and make everything perfect for the next day.

Oh memories!