Support for the establishment of a regional law enforcement training academy is growing, as cities and Clark County’s government have either considered or have already put their approval behind a measure expected to go through Olympia next year.
Earlier this year, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his intention to establish more localized training for state law enforcement. Currently, police cadets for city and county-level law enforcement training have to go to Burien or a satellite campus in Spokane.
Speaking at the state’s Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien in July, Inslee said he wanted to see four regional academies established in an effort to increase the staffing of departments statewide. A report from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs released that month showed the state had the fewest officers per capita of any in the United States.
Washington state Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, is expected to be the primary sponsor of the bill in 2023’s session. At the time of the announcement, Lovick said Pasco, Everett and Bellingham would be the cities where other regional academies would be located alongside Vancouver.
North Clark County cities have already put their support behind the regional facility. On Sept. 28, the La Center City Council approved its resolution of support for the regional academy. On Oct. 3, the Battle Ground and Woodland city councils voted to approve resolutions in support of the effort.
Most recently, the Clark County Council discussed the potential for the academy and the county’s own resolution in support of the Vancouver location during a “council time” meeting on Oct. 12. If approved during the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the council will send a letter of support to both Inslee and Lovick.
The letter states the easier access for law enforcement recruits would be beneficial. Those cadets spend 19 weeks at the academy before they can officially hit the streets as an officer in city police departments or county sheriff’s offices.
For the county, the recruitment potential is especially poignant, as staffing levels have been a concern among law enforcement and politicians in the area. The lack of deputies has been a chief talking point among those who are seeking office, both in local and state government, as well as those seeking the position of Clark County sheriff.
Councilor Gary Medvigy said a regional academy would be a “huge plus” for Clark County policing. He noted the issues the sheriff’s office has with recruitment is a statewide issue, as illuminated through the statewide move.
“We need to reinvest in law enforcement,” Medvigy said.
With currently only one location for training, entry-level hires experience a backlog before they can take part in the academy, he said.
“It is extremely challenging for our chiefs and our sheriff to say to a new recruit, ‘we’re going to offer you a position, but we don’t know when you are ever going to be able to go to the academy,’ and that’s pretty much the situation,” Medvigy said. “It could be months. It could be a year.”
Medvigy noted the general support of the move across jurisdictions statewide.
“Pretty much everyone is in favor of this,” he said.
Council chair Karen Bowerman noted the county’s resolution does not specify a location for the academy.
“The point is to have the facility here, not just where it would be,” Bowerman said.
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