Changes in store for cash-strapped police academy

(Posted May 27, 2020)

The Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA), headquartered in London, will be redesigned using an innovative approach to interactive trainings to better meet the evolving needs of Ohio’s law enforcement community.

“Our commitment to provide high-caliber training to law enforcement officers is unchanged, and we will continue to equip them with the latest tools to keep us safe,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. “This operational change will benefit all Ohioans as we enhance the delivery of training, providing departments with cost-effective education, while keeping officers in the communities they protect and with the families they love.”

The academy has experienced funding challenges for more than a decade. Yost identified it as a financial concern before taking office and asked Auditor of State Keith Faber to review the matter. An audit is ongoing. While the evaluation of how OPOTA should operate has been under way for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the implementation of a new approach.

“With the pandemic as a catalyst, changes in how OPOTA conducts training are necessary and timely,” said Vernon Stanforth, Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission chairperson and Fayette County sheriff. “This decision addresses longstanding issues while charting a new direction for the education of the next generation of law enforcement.”

The statutory funding mechanism established to support OPOTA is inadequate and unsustainable. OPOTA has not been self-funded, as required by law, for more than a decade. Recently, OPOTA has experienced dwindling class sizes as law enforcement agencies balance competing priorities when seeking further training for officers, including cost, course materials and travel. Last year, dozens of classes had fewer than five students in attendance. Surveys and officer feedback also indicate a desire for new training material, focusing on the latest technology and techniques in the evolving field of law enforcement.

“Law enforcement deserves the best education and training we can offer, and our current structure falls short,” Yost said. “This redesign means better, more thorough training. The only thing we are leaving behind is the 1950s delivery model.”

Ashland Police Chief David Marcelli, president of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, said: “Our organization is dedicated to continuing professionalism and innovation among police executives in order to assure the continued success of the law enforcement community. This modernization of police training aligns with that mission as it will enhance opportunities for officers to gain educational experiences and, in turn, make our communities safer.”

The current unprecedented economic upheaval, combined with low attendance and financial trends, has highlighted the need for change.

“Sheriffs and deputies must be trained in the latest law enforcement procedures as we operate the county jail, serve the courts and patrol the roadways,” Auglaize County Sheriff Allen Solomon, president of the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association, said. “We are eager to work with Attorney General Yost to mold basic and advanced training that serves the needs of local law enforcement and the sheriffs across the state of Ohio. Each agency faces different challenges, and we must be properly trained to serve the citizens we serve.”

A survey will be released to law enforcement agencies across the state to gather feedback on what types of specialized trainings would be most beneficial. Training classes will be developed around that feedback to provide officers with the tools they need and want.

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