State and local law enforcement officials joined Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday to announce a proposed expansion of the Criminal Justice Training Committee (CJTC). Regional campuses would help agencies address a shortage of national officers and facilitate the recruitment of officers who are more representative of their home communities.
“As we heard from law enforcement today, this effort to fund more training and establish new training locations will not only help increase the number of officers, but will also help with officer recruitment. that better reflect the communities in which they work,” Inslee said.
[VIDEO: Gov. Jay Inslee press conference on CJTC expansion]
Recruitment is a challenge across the country
While the national unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels, many occupations continue to experience labor shortages. Data from the Police Executive Research Forum shows a 3.48% decline over two years in the overall workforce of police departments. Officer recruiting is nationally competitive – many agencies take unusual measures such as offering hiring bonuses and hosting out-of-state recruiting events to attract officers . Agencies also experienced accelerated retirement rates. Hampered by attrition and difficult recruitment, some agencies operate with a significant labor shortage.
Inslee actively helped Washington agencies compete for officers. In 2016, Inslee signed a bill to increase the salaries of Washington State Patrol officers by 5%. The following year, Inslee signed a 16% pay increase for privates and a 20% pay increase for lieutenants and captains. Overall, combined with union-negotiated wage increases, state trooper pay has risen more than 40% since 2016.
Inslee also signed legislation to protect the pensions of retired law enforcement officers from pandemic-related disruption. This year, Inslee signed a bill improving benefits for law enforcement officers by increasing retirement pay for officers with 25 or more years of service, and heeded calls from law enforcement officials signing another bill restoring important policing tactics vital to public safety.
Police support more training under regional proposal
Law enforcement officers from across the state showed up in Burien Thursday to support the proposal, saying it would help them recruit and train more people from the communities they serve.
“There is a running deficit in policing, despite all the strategies that law enforcement is trying to improve recruitment,” said Steve Crown, Wenatchee Police Department Chief and President of the Association of Washington sheriffs and police chiefs. “Sign-on bonuses, recruiting videos, in-person meetings at colleges and universities – this regional training approach is just one more piece of the puzzle that is absolutely worth completing.”
In Washington State, vacancies range from a few positions at small agencies to hundreds of positions at large agencies.
Expanding to regional campuses would speed up the process of training and certifying new hires, helping agencies fill vacancies. The expansion would also reduce the geographic barriers that trainees face in pursuing extended training. Agencies also expect the strategy to make it easier to hire more local agents, helping agencies better represent the communities they serve.
Pasco is one of the planned locations for a new regional training office, which will serve the entire Tri-Cities area.
“The regional academy concept will help us find talented officers and allow for local cultural influences that will better reflect our communities,” Pasco Police Chief Ken Roske said. “Tri-City Law Enforcement is excited about the prospect of training new police officers at a Pasco BLEA campus.”
More slots provide more options for more recruits
“Communities thrive when we have exceptionally trained men and women serving Washington State departments,” King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall said. “These additional campuses will allow each region to benefit from newly appointed officers committed to upholding CJTC’s values and high standards for public safety.
Law enforcement professionals statewide are each trained and certified by the CJTC. Entry-level police officers undergo 720 hours of basic law enforcement training. Side officers take an equivalency course. The CJTC also hosts advanced curricula on special investigations, crisis intervention, train-the-trainer and other topics. The vast majority of trainees complete the academy at the Burien campus. Some are trained at a Spokane campus.
The academy is housed in person at either the Burien or Spokane facilities. A centralized model ensures trainees receive consistent training, but imposes travel and scheduling challenges for trainees beyond King and Spokane counties. Many potential recruits may not be able to leave their family or job for an extended period.
“Especially for agencies in the middle of the state, trainings require agents to be away from their lives and families. If the regional campuses were closer, it’s time they came home,” said Megan Saunders, communications manager for CJTC.
State training curriculum reflects updated standards
As state laws and police best practices evolve, having training facilities closer to departments would also benefit ongoing officer training. CJTC’s evidence-based curriculum includes courses in concepts such as cognitive command training, intended to create a structured system for filtering and processing information to expand an officer’s perceptual scope. The trainings align with the latest standards approved by legislators in recent sessions.
“Demands for Commission training remain high, and the expanded regional training is just one example of how Governor Inslee and lawmakers are finding ways to meet important agency needs,” said Monica Alexander, Executive Director of CJTC. “This is an exciting time of change for police recruiting and training, and we look forward to the positive impact this expansion will have on policing in our state.”