DOCJT Commissioner Addresses Basic Training Backlog
Enrolling new recruits in DOCJT’s Law Enforcement Basic Training Academy in a timely manner was a problem I became aware of before I was appointed commissioner. After joining the agency, addressing the backlog became one of the highest priorities for our staff.
An increase in law enforcement retirements has exacerbated the backlog. We began tackling the problem immediately upon my appointment by increasing the size of each academy class from 28 to 31 recruits. This had little impact. Recently, the backlog reached an unacceptable level. Kentucky had enough newly-hired recruits to fill five basic training academy recruit classes. Those who would be hired after this would face an eight-month wait to begin the basic training academy.
DOCJT staff members researched and developed a more-strenuous plan and requested an emergency meeting of the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council to discuss.
This plan included increasing the number of recruits per class again, as well as increasing the number of academy classes offered throughout the year. Accomplishing this, however, requires a significant increase in instructors. DOCJT also has experienced a number of retirements. Finding and funding enough staff to handle these increases created a secondary challenge.
As a result, we addressed the need for additional instructors by expanding our instructional techniques for in-service training. With the support of KLEC, we are developing more online distance-learning courses. We also are conducting research on streaming courses to other locations. Large courses that serve a significant number of officers, such as the Police Executive Command Course, Current Leadership Issues for Mid-level Executives, Kentucky Investigations and more will continue to be offered.
Utilizing a combination of these types of instruction will enable DOCJT to redirect much-needed staff to train more new recruits.
In September, I presented this emergency plan to KLEC board members, who were extremely receptive and supportive of our plan to address the backlog.
With their blessing, we took action immediately. We have significantly reduced the backlog by increasing the size of basic training classes. November’s class began with 36 recruits, and classes beginning in January and February each have 40 recruits scheduled. The March class is prepared to host 40 recruits if needed. Currently, there are openings in the March class, which means we have reduced the backlog already from an eight-month wait to three.
We are prepared to do what is necessary to ensure our client agencies have access to DOCJT’s Law Enforcement Basic Training Academy in a timely manner. We will continue to monitor the registration numbers and take action as necessary, up to and including adding extra classes in the 2018 schedule.
However, I want to make it clear that we will NOT sacrifice the quality of training for the sake of quantity. Each and every recruit will receive the same attention to detail and should expect the same level of instruction afforded to every individual enrolled in training at DOCJT.
Recently I received a request from northern Kentucky police chiefs to review the length of training and any justification on which the 23-week schedule was based.
I informed Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley and KLEC Executive Director Fran Root of the request. Secretary Tilley directed me to conduct a review of the 23-week program and make recommendations.
When I asked him for his input about the number of weeks training should be, Secretary Tilley said, ‘I don’t care if the academy is 52, 25, 23 or 18 weeks. I want the recruits to get the amount of training they need to be safe on the street.”
We previously updated the 23-week curriculum and are reviewing all our classes continually to ensure we are offering the classes our students need. Therefore, the review of academy hour already was underway.
With this direction from Secretary Tilley, we began a detailed, systematic review of the Basic Training Academy curriculum. First, we consulted the Job Task Analysis conducted in 2016, which is required by law. The JTA is the most widely-accepted and nationally-used process for determining valid job contact and employment requirements. It determines which tasks are critical, essential, and the frequency by which these tasks are completed. The JTA does not determine the number of hours each task should be trained; it is intended to validate the content of training.
We reviewed exit surveys from our recruits as well as feedback from DOCJT supervisors, instructors, branch managers and other law enforcement professionals and researched studies to develop a recommendation for the most practical and effective number of weeks required to teach our recruits. That number was 20 weeks.
We have addressed the downtime, redundancy and unnecessary courses in the existing Basic Training Schedule. We have increased the adult learning scenario-based courses and basic skills needed to provide critical skills to our recruits while simultaneously reducing the overall number of hours.
The motivation for the change to a 20-week schedule is not to address the backlog. We will never sacrifice the quality of training. DOCJT will ensure every recruit receives the same attention to detail with the goal of keeping their names off the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial wall and providing the most professionally-trained police officers in the country.
I am continually proud to be a part of Kentucky law enforcement and to have served my community as a police officer. I am praying for your safety daily and encourage you always to Check your 6 – wear your vest and seat belt, slow down, remain situationally aware, stay fit and, most importantly, treat everyone with dignity and respect.