By RICHARD PALOMA
With an upswing in the economy, and the demand for law enforcement officers rising as once-depleted departments move to replenish their ranks, Sheriff Adam Christianson and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department have reinstituted the local police academy in Stanislaus County.
“We’ve been operating the academy for about six months now,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Training Division Lieutenant Brandon Kiely, noting that the academy is currently in its second class of recruits since reopening. “There has been such a demand from agencies in the area; we’ve limited it to just students who are hired by police and sheriff’s departments.”
Lt. Kiely said by having cadets affiliated with departments ensures that the much-desired slots are going to viable candidates who have already passed some of the harder portions of law enforcement screening such as the background investigations and psychological exam.
Kiely said trainees from Modesto PD, Turlock PD, San Joaquin, Mariposa, Tuolumne and Stanislaus sheriffs’ departments currently attend the 20-week, 740-hour course.
Gone are the Monday-Friday, 8-hour days as trainees attend the academy on a “4-10” work schedule (four, ten-hour days) similar to a standard law enforcement patrol schedule.
Previously, with entry level positions in law enforcement scarce, and departments on limited training budgets, those interested in a law enforcement career were encouraged to send themselves through a community college sponsored basic POST police academy to get certification to make themselves more attractive to potential hiring agencies.
Now with personnel demand up, and many candidates in “settled” family roles unable to take time away from a paying job to attend a five-month course – let alone finance it – departments have reverted back to hiring the recruit to a paid position and paying their way through training.
“We’re able to get a wider selection of candidates now from people who otherwise wouldn’t do it because of their obligations,” Lt. Kiely said. “This allows them to get paid while training. So far, it’s been very effective.”
With local agencies already changing their practice to hire police trainees, Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins has proposed a similar measure with a “Police Officer Trainee” position to be created within the city so potential new hires can attend the Stanislaus Regional Training Center.
According to the chief, even though the city just recently hired their 22nd full-time officer, it had been a difficult process getting there.
Jenkins noted that OPD has lost a lot desirable candidates to agencies that offer pay and benefits far above the City of Oakdale such as Modesto, which has a $6 per hour rate higher than he can offer.
“For our department, it results in smaller application pools with applicants who have little or no experience or have failed out of multiple agencies’ training programs,” Jenkins wrote. “Applicants that do successfully pass the initial interview portion of our testing process usually fail in the latter half of the background investigation or the psychological evaluation.”
Jenkins said that with such difficulty finding qualified, desirable candidates, it appears that their current hiring strategy “is no longer feasible.”
With a POST certified basic academy now local, Jenkins predicts that travel and lodging costs would be eliminated and the department would be able to hire the “trainee” as a non-sworn position until completion of the academy training.
“With having a police officer trainee enrolled in the academy, in six months’ time, the police department would have a qualified and trained recruit ready to serve in the position of a sworn, full-time police officer should an opening occur,” Jenkins said.
The trainee position is currently in negotiations with the Oakdale Police Officer Association and still requires city council approval.