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CCCTC to launch police academy this fall

LISBON – The Columbiana County Career and Technical Center is looking to address local police staffing shortages by offering a police academy as an adult education offering starting this fall.

Officers from across the county were invited to a breakfast meeting about the new program Thursday morning and were welcomed to participate as an advisory board.

Adult education student services coordinator Kevin Clark said 13 people have already enrolled for the academy.

“We are very excited to kick off the police academy and have our first cadets this fall,” Clark said. “I’m very happy that in just the first weeks, we have 13 people signed up and ready to take their physical fitness test.”

Adult education assistant director Terry Hutson said initially, she reached out to Sheriff Brian McLaughlin and asked if he thought there was a need for a county police academy.

“My job at the career center is programming and a lot of figuring out what we should be offering, what the community needs,” Hutson said. “The first thing we did is talk to Sheriff McLaughlin and say what do you think? Do you think we need one? He said absolutely.”

Next, Hutson said the school performed a needs assessment. “Some of the police departments gave us feedback and said we are having trouble finding officers, we are having trouble getting recruits and keeping them,” Hutson said. “If we have one in Columbiana County, they would be from Columbiana County. They’re going to want to stay in this area, so that would be a good thing for them to be able to do their training and then be employed in the area.”

Years ago, Hutson said CCCTC had attempted a police academy but it only lasted a year. “The reason we only had it for a year was because we just weren’t experienced enough,” Hutson said.

“We had cadets coming in with guns and we were also a high school and it just wasn’t working well, so we had to shut it down. We weren’t sure we were equipped for it at the time. I think we are equipped at this time.”

The sheriff’s office will work with the police academy program, Hutson said, which will avoid any issues regarding safety in the campus. “We can use their shooting range and all of the guns and things you guys need to have to do your job will be done off-site so we won’t have any of that type of conflict,” she said. “All the classroom theory will be done here. We do have mats and we can do the other stuff.”

Police academy coordinator Allan Young said the program will be about 800 hours total, with the first 740 hours of the program devoted to the OPOTA certification.

Next, he wants to augment the training with 50 or 60 hours of additional training to familiarize students with community resources.

“Police deal with the prosecutor’s office, sheriff’s office, mental health, emergency management, children’s services, agencies that I’ve dealt with through my career that nobody ever told me anything about what they did until I had the job,” Young said. “My theory is let’s get them educated on the basic police academy so they have some idea what’s going to be expected of them when they hit the street, but let’s give them additional tools so when they’re out there all by themselves and something happens and they think they need help, they at least have some idea of where to go look.”

Young said he also wants to add ten hours of taser training at the end of the academy. He said ultimately, the goal is getting as many certified officers out on the street as soon as possible, but it will take some patience. “Unfortunately it’s not going to happen tomorrow,” Young said. “So we need to spend the next year getting these 13 or so people certified and out on the street and into your hands.”

The program will kick off officially on Aug.15 and should end the second week in May, Young said, adding that he is still working on finalizing the curriculum.

He invited the officers in attendance to visit the class. “If you want to come down and look the guys over you are welcome to do so,” Young said. “Actually, we are doing it for you guys. You need the help. Hopefully we can provide that. It’s just going to take us a minute to get there.”

Adult education director Kelly Darney said the program’s goal is to be a portal for local police. “When you need to hire people, the people that will be working here will know the candidates personally so we can give references and that kind of stuff,” she said. “Hopefully it will be a good partnership with all you guys.”

Young said, for the first year, the class will have a maximum capacity of 20, but down the road, they might expand it to around 30 people. The police academy will be a night-time program, Young said. “It’s 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. with the exception of the Saturday classes,” he said. “They’ll go eight to six.”

Clark said students on programs like SNAP, WIC, medical card or unemployment benefits may qualify to attend at no personal cost. “At the career center we were awarded a short-term grant from the Ohio Department of Higher Education,” Clark said. “For the student to be awarded the grant, they have to show need. How they show need is by presenting proof of any type of government assistance they are on, SNAP, WIC, medical card, unemployment benefits, anything like that, we can cover the cost of their tuition 100 percent for them.”

Students who do not qualify for assistance can apply for general financial aid. The program has also been added to MCTA’s funding list, Clark said. “Any money that is received from them is 100 percent not to be paid back as well too,” he said. “Our goal is to get them in, get them certified and also get them out without any debt.”

For the first year, Clark said tuition will be at a reduced rate of $5,000 plus lab fees, which covers the cost of uniforms, books and state exams. After the first year, the program will be $7,000; $3,500 per semester plus under $1,000 in lab fees.

Hutson said the school is very excited to start the police academy. “We’ve just been doing a lot of nursing and medical stuff so we are happy to be diversifying and providing something for the community that we understand is needed,” she said.

Anyone interested in the police academy can reach out to Kevin Clark, Student Services Coordinator at Kevin.clark@ccctc.k12.oh.us or call (330)424-9561 ext. 176.

llehman@mojonews.com

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