Police trainings would increase statewide under new regional proposal
State and local law enforcement leaders joined Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday to announce a proposed expansion of the Criminal Justice Training Committee (CJTC). Regional campuses would help agencies respond to a national officer shortage and would facilitate recruitment of officers more representative of their home communities.
“As we heard from law enforcement today, this effort to fund more training and establish new training locations will not only help with the number of officers, but will also help the recruitment of officers that better reflect the communities in which they work,” said Inslee.
Recruitment is a challenge across the nation
While the national unemployment rate has returned to a pre-pandemic level, many professions continue to experience labor shortages. Police Executive Research Forum data shows a 3.48% two-year decrease in overall staffing among police departments. Officer recruitment is competitive nationwide — many agencies are taking unusual steps such as offering hiring bonuses and staging out-of-state recruitment events to attract officers. Agencies have also experienced accelerated rates of retirement. Hampered by attrition and challenging recruitment, some agencies are operating at a significant labor deficit.
Inslee has been active in helping Washington agencies compete for officers. In 2016, Inslee signed a bill to raise Washington State Patrol officer salaries by 5%. The next year, Inslee signed a 16% pay raise for troopers and a 20% pay raise for lieutenants and captains. Overall, combined with pay increases negotiated with labor, state trooper pay has increased more than 40% since 2016.
Inslee also previously signed legislation to protect the pensions of retiring law enforcement officers from pandemic-related disruptions. This year, Inslee signed a bill improving benefits for law enforcement officers by increasing retirement pay for officers with 25 or more years of service, and answered calls from law enforcement leaders by signing another bill restoring important police tactics vital to public safety.
Police support more trainings under regional proposal
Law enforcement officers from around the state showed up in Burien Thursday to support the proposal, saying it would help them recruit and train more people from within the communities they serve.
“There is a running deficit of police, and that is despite all of the strategies that law enforcement is trying to enhance recruitment,” said Wenatchee Police Department Chief and Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs President Steve Crown. “Signing bonuses, recruitment videos, in-person meetings at colleges and universities — this regional training approach is one more piece of the puzzle that is absolutely worth the endeavor to see it through.”
In Washington state, vacancies range from a few positions at smaller agencies to hundreds of positions in large agencies.
Expanding to regional campuses would accelerate the process for new recruits to be trained and certified, helping agencies overcome officer vacancies. The expansion would also diminish the geographic barriers trainees must face to attend extended training. Agencies also expect that the strategy would facilitate the hiring of more local officers, helping agencies better represent the communities they serve.
Pasco is one of the locations slated for a new regional training office, which will serve the entire Tri-Cities area.
“The regional academy concept will help us find talented officers and allow for local cultural influences that will better reflect our communities,” said Pasco Chief of Police Ken Roske. “The Tri-City law enforcement agencies are excited for the prospect of training new police officers at a Pasco BLEA Campus.”
More locations offer more options for more recruits
“Communities thrive when we have exceptionally trained men and women serving departments throughout Washington state,” said King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall. “These additional campuses will ensure every region benefits from newly commissioned officers committed to upholding CJTC’s values and high standards in public safety.”
Law enforcement professionals statewide are each trained and certified by CJTC. Entry-level police officers complete a 720-hour Basic Law Enforcement Academy. Lateral officers complete an equivalency course. CJTC also hosts advanced curricula in special investigations, crisis intervention, trainer trainings, and other subject matter. The vast majority of trainees complete the academy at the Burien campus. Some are trained at a Spokane campus.
The academy is hosted in-person at the Burien or Spokane facilities. A centralized model ensures that trainees receive consistent training but imposes travel and scheduling challenges for trainees from beyond King and Spokane counties. Many potential recruits might not be able to leave their families or work situations for an extended time.
“Especially for agencies in the middle of the state, trainings require officers to be away from their lives and families. If regional campuses were nearer, that’s time they get back at home,” said Megan Saunders, communications manager for CJTC.
State’s training program reflects updated standards
As state laws and policing best practices evolve, having training facilities closer to departments would also benefit the continued education of officers. CJTC’s evidence-based curriculum includes courses on concepts like Cognitive Command Training, meant to build a structured system to filter and process information to expand an officer’s field of perception. The trainings align with the newest standards approved by legislators in recent sessions.
“The demands for training by the Commission remain high, and expanded regional training is just one example of how Governor Inslee and legislators are finding ways to respond to important agency needs,” said Monica Alexander, executive director of CJTC. “This is an exciting time of change for police recruitment and training, and we are looking forward to the positive impact that this expansion has on policing in our state.”