CMC adds another police academy session | AspenTimes.com

CMC adds another police academy session

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Adding another police academy session at Colorado Mountain College could help the area’s law enforcement with the constant struggle of keeping a full roster.

The additional session will begin in January at the Spring Valley Campus near Glenwood Springs. Academies will still be held in the summer and fall. They are the basic 16-week training programs required to take a test and become Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified.

“I’ve been working on it for about six months because I knew that the need was going to be there,” said Kevin Brun, director of CMC’s police academy.

He said he lobbied CMC to expand its offerings because of the high demand for personnel in police departments and sheriffs’ offices in the area. The January academy would prevent departments from having to send employees elsewhere for training or waiting several months for the next academy to begin.

“That can be the difference between getting someone in and getting started and not having a shot at that person,” Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson said. “Having a readily available POST program in the area is extremely valuable to all of us.”

His office is still about five positions short-staffed, but has several candidates going through background checks and initial stages of the hiring process. Maintaining staff levels has been a challenge for the GSPD and other agencies because of the high cost of living in the area and tendency for officers to sometimes want to go to bigger cities after getting started. He also thought younger people don’t follow the model of working for long periods of time for one company anymore, often having several different careers in a lifetime. The war in Iraq has also been considered a factor thinning the applicant pool among area law enforcement officials, Wilson said.

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“It’s very rare to be able to look down the roster and say, ‘Wow, we’re 100 percent staffed,'” he said.

Because of the challenges, Wilson said his department has tried to make the hiring process more candidate friendly and convenient. It’s turned increasingly to the Internet. His department and others often pay the way for someone to go through the police academy.

“It’s a little tough in this valley we’ve found to ask someone to take three-and-a-half months off work and spend a couple thousand to go to school,” he said.

Wilson thought more academy sessions at CMC would help with retaining officers as well as just finding them in the first place. He’s been on the recruiting trail, sometimes contacting academies on the Front Range. But he thinks adding more localized training would help retain people as they spend more than three months in the area during the academy.

This affords the opportunity for prospective officers to get used to the area and enjoy it. They may end up staying even if that was not their original intention.

Bruns agreed, saying he thought agencies would have better luck hiring and retaining someone who’s spent time here at the academy.

“When they hire people that already live in the community, they’re more likely to stay than someone who comes here from Texas,” Bruns said.

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