By Associated Press - Saturday, April 30, 2016

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - The Clark County sheriff is looking into starting his own officer training academy. Sheriff Chuck Atkins is frustrated with long lines at the underfunded state law enforcement academy that have left him with a shortage of deputies.

Atkins has formed a committee to find out what it would take to start a local police academy, The Columbian newspaper reports ( https://is.gd/0IXAiZ ) .

Undersheriff Mike Cooke said the committee thinks the idea is a real possibility and says a Clark County police academy could open as soon as the end of the year.

Sue Rahr, executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, says the academy is funded to run only 10 basic law enforcement classes a year and it would take 18 to meet the demand.

Each class has a maximum capacity of 30 new law enforcement officials. The current contract guarantees the King County Sheriff’s Office five spots in each class and Seattle Police Department seven spots in each class. That leaves all of the other police agencies in the state 18 spots each month to share.



According to training commission rules, if a recruit drops out of the class, that spot will be filled by a recruit from the smaller law enforcement agencies. Rahr said that those agencies, which she defines as about 20 officers or fewer, feel the burden of a vacancy more than their larger counterparts.

Each month, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office anxiously awaits an email to find out if their deputies are among those who have earned a spot in the state’s law enforcement academy.

Seven newly hired deputies at the agency are in line to take the 4½-month training - a requirement to become a commissioned law enforcement officer in Washington. Some of those new hires have been waiting months.

Three of those new hires are working as corrections deputies until they can switch to patrol. The other two are working in entry-level positions, helping out in the office and shadowing detectives. And all are paid a deputy’s salary of $26.10 an hour while they wait for their training.

“We have to have them on the payroll,” said Breanne Nelson, human resource manager for the sheriff’s office. “Another agency will swoop them up and, to submit an application to the academy, they need to be on the payroll.”

While they wait, patrol deputies are racking up more overtime than ever - $473,000 this year in Clark County.

“Right now, it looks like it will be beneficial to run our own academy,” Cooke said.

Rahr said she understands the Clark County sheriff’s predicament, but thinks the solution is a short-sighted one.

“It lets the state off the hook,” she said. “The state not only is responsible by law to provide that training, they’re receiving funding from local jurisdictions, meaning the local taxpayers would be paying twice.”

She also said that the state academy has put together a very experienced training cadre. In the coming months, she will be asking the governor for more money so the training commission can run more academy classes next year.

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Information from: The Columbian, https://www.columbian.com

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