A new law enforcement training program at Fairmont State University (FSU) kicked off this week with its first class of cadets.
The program promises an immersive experience with participants living on campus in Pence Hall during the 16-week training.
In West Virginia, law enforcement officers must attend the police academy and become certified before they are able to be on their own at their respective police departments. Because the State Police Academy in Institute was the only option prior to FSU, many departments had new recruits waiting for a seat for weeks and even months.
It is hoped the FSU academy can relieve some of that waiting, while also creating a new opportunity for current students wanting to pursue a law enforcement career.
Fairmont State University Police Chief and academy Director Jeff McCormick said having the academy intertwined with a university is a great benefit because they can offer the experience for students as well as officers from local departments.
McCormick said students will have the opportunity to attend the academy and earn their certification along with their overall degree, which will make them more appealing when job searching compared to those not already certified.
Officers from local departments will also earn college credits while becoming certified, which can go toward future education at FSU or transferred elsewhere.
“Research has shown that police officers who have some college education generally make better decisions,” McCormick said. “They’re less likely to use force and they have fewer complaints about them.”
McCormick said most days at the FSU academy start with early morning physical training, followed by instruction the entire day. After dinner, there will be further coursework or enrichment activities with a mandatory lights-out at 11 p.m.
“Then we get up and we do it all again,” he said.
Instructors at the academy consist of law enforcement practitioners who are passing on their wisdom from lifelong law enforcement careers, but they are also using college professors who are teaching different aspects of criminal law, bias awareness and other things in a more collegiate setting, McCormick said.
The inaugural class has 16 participants from 10 departments throughout the state. McCormick said now that they are seeing what they can handle, he believes they could potentially have future classes of 20-25.
Local departments have recently been experiencing problems with officer vacancies and some are already taking advantage of the opportunity to bring in larger groups of recruits to get them certified.
“In the past, we have had only one option with regard to getting officers the basic training needed for certification” said Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell. “Spots were limited, and if we hired a group of officers, we were sometimes unable to send them to a basic class, and they would be forced to wait until the next class.
“So, for departments like MPD that are experiencing large staffing shortages, the time it takes to get officers trained and certified is critical in efforts to fill vacancies effectively and reach allotted staffing levels. “
Powell said MPD recently hired eight new officers, one of whom was already certified. Four were able to attend the State Police Academy in Institute, and three are part of the inaugural FSU class.
Monongalia County Sheriff Perry Palmer said his department was lucky enough to get their three new recruits into the State Police Academy this time around but was prepared to send one to Fairmont if they got waitlisted.
“There’s a lot of departments that are short-handed, not only ours, and the state police only take so many so I definitely think it will be good,” Palmer said. “It’s tough when you are down so many people and then you hire, but the class is already started or they didn’t get in and sometimes it’s three, four, five months before they can get in, if that.”
More information about the FSU Police Training Academy can be found by visiting fairmontstate.edu and clicking the College of Liberal Arts program tab followed by the Police Academy tab.
If you are interested in a career in law enforcement, contact a local police department or sheriff’s office for information on their next testing opportunities.