Police training task force gets earful on closing academies

Reggie Wilkinson, right, chairman of the Ohio Attorney General's Advisory Group on Law Enforcement Training, moderates debate over whether the state has too many police training academies as Columbus police commander Rhonda Grizzell observes, on Monday, April 13, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Wilkinson said a final decision on whether to recommend closing some academies hasn't been made. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)
Reggie Wilkinson, right, chairman of the Ohio Attorney General's Advisory Group on Law Enforcement Training, moderates debate over whether the state has too many police training academies as Columbus police commander Rhonda Grizzell observes, on Monday, April 13, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. Wilkinson said a final decision on whether to recommend closing some academies hasn't been made. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Officials from several Ohio police departments and police training academies on Monday protested the possibility that some of the state’s smaller training programs might be targeted for closure.

The dissenters – including police chiefs, training instructors and community college representatives – reacted strongly to suggestions by an Attorney General’s task force that the state has too many academies and many that aren’t rigorous enough.

At issue is a debate over what are known as closed and open academies. “Closed” programs are run by large agencies like Columbus police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol, with recruits paid to attend and training done paramilitary style. Some task force members have suggested shifting police training in Ohio to the closed model.

By contrast, “open” programs usually involve students paying to attend academies run by community colleges that generally follow the minimum state standards for police training.

Lance Combs, acting Shelby police chief, says his department relies on the graduates they receive from the academy at North Central State College in Mansfield.

Closing such academies “eliminates a pool of experienced, seasoned instructors, instructors that work in our own law enforcement agencies and in our own communities,” Combs told the advisory group.

Combs is one of six Richland County police chiefs who wrote Attorney General Mike DeWine along with Richland County Sheriff Steve Sheldon protesting a possible move to a “closed” academy system.

Comparing the two types of academies is like comparing “apples and Cadillacs,” said Ruth Babel-Smith, a commander at the police academy run by Owens State Community College in northwestern Ohio. The training a recruit may receive at the Columbus academy may not prepare that officer for work elsewhere in the state, she said.

The Ohio Association of Community Colleges, representing schools that offer open academies, warned that closing such programs would place a burden on small police departments that can’t afford to pay recruits while they’re being trained.

Training academy officials from Columbus State, Washington State, Wright State and Lakeland Community College were among others who crowded the meeting of the task force looking at possible changes to police training in Ohio.

Task force data show only one in three academies in Ohio have a student success rate of 75 percent or above.

Several academy officials challenged that statistic, saying academies had no control over students who dropped out during training. A better measure, they said, was how many gain state certification at the end.

Reggie Wilkinson, the advisory group chairman, said final recommendations on closures haven’t been made.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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