Police Academy Self-Sponsorship: Jump Start Your Career
Seminole Community College Police Academy Manager Richard Weinblatt instructing traffic stops.
By Richard B. Weinblatt
I get quite a few emails and letters from individuals across this country who are having difficulty getting hired as a police officer or deputy sheriff. While I can’t help those folks that are steeped in a history of drug use or felony arrests, many of the others can jum start their career by self-sponsoring through a basic law enforcement academy.
More and more states are embracing a system of self-sponsorship through their community college system or other academy setting.
Still, not all states have fully embraced the concept. Some, such as Arkansas, Indiana, and Kansas require that the applicant be an employed police officer and does not allow for the costs of the basic academy be picked up by the attendee. Others, such as Massachusetts, require that the academy attendee be employed or at least be “supported” or “sponsored” as a non-employee checked out by a local police department.
The self-sponsoring trend is growing. The approach is advantageous to the agencies, and thus is to the aspiring officers as well.
The agency can view the person’s conduct in the academy. That has helped many young folks who came into the academy I manage with a spotty employment record. By excelling in the academy, they were able to demonstrate that they had learned from previous employment transgressions and were a viable, mature candidate for hire.
The individual can check out their prospective career choice without making a long-term commitment. An academy setting gives the wannabe LEO a view of the field and dispels many of the myths civilians hold concerning policing.
It is also, quite simply, cheaper for the department to hire someone already trained, then have to shell out the salary and expenses during the academy. For example, at my academy in central Florida, it runs around $3,000 for in-state (or $6,000 for out-of state- not a resident of the Sunshine State for at least one year) tuition, fees, books, and uniforms.
Colorado, Florida, Texas, and many other states have well-known and long-established community college systems in which qualified individuals can pay their own way through the academy.
The Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy has its Pre-Service Program. At a cost of around $4,000, qualified individuals can attend the 55 acre academy and, as its website boasts, enjoy a “placement ratio of 90%.”
California’s Palomar College Police Academy, based in San Marcos, comes in at around $3,000 for in-state tuition for the three blocks of training (encompassing over a thousand hours) spread out over a year.
Even New Jersey, long a proponent of agency sponsored academy attendees, has had the Alternate Route program for a few years. There are twelve New Jersey Police Training Commission (PTC) academies that have the Alternate Route available. At the Somerset County Police Academy, the first academy in the Garden State to allow self-sponsorship, the cost comes in at around $3,800 for the 24-week basic training academy.
Just plunking down your credit card at the cashier’s window does not guarantee you a place in the self-sponsorship academy. All academies have minimal entrance requirements designed to screen out those that have no chance of being hired in the field.
Past criminal conduct can be an issue for those looking to forge the self-sponsorship trail. Fingerprints are required. By and large, any felonies and certain misdemeanors (or a pattern of criminal conduct) bar the person from the academy.
In Florida, adjudication withheld, plea of no contest, conviction, or a guilty plea for any felony or a misdemeanor involving perjury or false statement blocks the person from an academy and employment as a criminal justice officer.
DUI can be an issue also. Nebraska requires that the person, regardless of their employment status, not have been convicted of DUI during the preceding two years.
Minimum ages of entry vary from state to state. Nebraska requires that the person be 21 prior to completion of the program. Iowa is 18-years-of-age. Florida pegs it at 19.
Amazingly, an area that seems to stymie recruit students is the failure to prepare physically for the academy. Most academies in the country have a physical component. A few have physical standards prior to entering the academy, but most do not. It then becomes a shock to the students when they are confronted with the PT part of the curriculum.
Whatever the route of entry into an academy, respectfulness towards the staff when asking questions and submitting materials is very important. This is another area that I have observed that has stopped an application in its tracks.
The front desk personnel can often go back to the academy manager or director’s office and point out problems with your application. It behooves you to stay on the good side of these seemingly not powerful folks.
Reputation is everything in this business, so look and act professional at all times. Stand tall, be proud, and pursue your self-sponsorship dream. It’s up to you to make it happen.