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Police Academy Self-Sponsorship: Jump Start Your Career

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.

Entrance Standards

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.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 2 years ago


    This concept of "Self-Sponsorship" will be the demise of the professional police officer. Departments have traditionally interviewed, selected, investigated and hired a candidate before he is sent off to a police academy for a period that now approximates six (6) mos. How many mature adults with sufficient life experiences to be judged as being suitable for admittance into our profession, i.e. the college graduate, military veteran, sometimes with a family, can afford to just "take off from work" for six (6) months, not fund his personal responsibilites to himself, and his family simply for the purpose of "hoping to be hired" even with that mythical 90% success rater in an era where many departments have budgets that are constricting manpower, causing either furloughs with or without a stated return date or the Federal model of one day out of ten, which is essentially a 10% pay cut. Having experience as a Chief of a police department that due to budgetary constraints agreed to employ an individual who was "self-sponsoring" his attendance at the police academy, I can attest that it was perhaps my worst experience in more than 35yrs in the profession. Never, ever again. We would have been better off working without this officer, despite the fact that the academy did graduate him. I can only hope that some other agency will hire him now that he isa "certified academy graduate". We need to look to both the premiere law enforcement agencies, and to the states that have state-wide, standardized police academy training at a central facility where the uniformity of training, and in our case a unified retirement system that allows an officer to transfer his retirement credits within the state-run retirement system as the most progressive models. It is my personal opinion that departmental standards should now require a baccalureate degree, plus three (3) to five (5) years of post graduate experience that may include a graduate degree, military service, and/or employment in the private sector (or any combination thereof) before an individual has developed the maturity and a track record that is sufficient for law enforcement officials to properlyl evaluate any candidate officer. If, and when that officer passes the "minimum standards", e.g. a bachelor's degree, military experience, preferably as a commissioned officer, not out of a prejudice for military officers so much as the opportunity to have spent time in a leadership role making independent decisions consistent with established goals and protocols, as well as in this day and age, experience as a combat leader with at least one (1) and perhaps two (2) or three (3) tours in combat where he is tested both as a leader, and as an individual. I cannot imagine how an individual with this background and experience can be expected to just take six (6) or more months off from an established history (this is not like grad school where the student attends three (3) to six (6) hours per week and has a full time job, even with VA educational benefits, and moreso, why would we want to hire an individual who would decide he can just step out of society for that six (6) months of unemployment on the if/come that he may get a job at the end of said period, but only if budgets, and other extraneous circumstances might permit, that he may expect to move to an unfamiliar community to take a less than desireable position due to the economic pressures of extended unemployment and reliable source of income set for the future. A system where the individual makes the preliminary selection of a candidate with the attributes and educational background that has been described herein (v.a.), the allow the state accreditation, criminal justice training or POST, whatever name it goes by, conduct supplemental testing for physical agility, conduct a standardized background investigation using Special Agents that are employed by that agency who are experienced police officers and managers, issue a report on the individual to both the potential employing agency and the academy, while allowing for any agency to supplement such a background investigation as it may see fit to fulfill and agency specifi requirements, and if then finally selected by the law enforcement agency that is considering the candidate (a Police Chief or Excecutive should retain the final selection authority from amongst a pool of pre-qualified candidates), he is given a position or 'slot" within an academy class not further out than the date that will allow completion within one (1) year of employment and becomes a sworn recruit police officer f\of the agency in question. He shold be eligible for restricted duty under the direct supervision of a certified training officer until he enters the academy class to which he is assigned. Unless we are willing and able to sustain such a qualification program, and to provide for salaries and benefits consistent thereto, we shall always be tendering responsibility for our national safety and security to a sub-optimal force unnecessarily.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 2 years ago


    Our school system still needs a lot of improvement. Doing your best to research the various program options means you are making the right choice. We have to stop the violence is schools and universities as soon as possible, so that our kids can learn in a safe environment.

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