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Funding the Academy...

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  • Funding the Academy...

    Interesting editorial from the Willimantic (CT) Chronicle follows.

    As a bit of background, in my part of the country it's tough to get training as a firefighter or police officer unless you're already officially a member of a department. I know areas, like Florida and California, where you can attend a community college first for the certifications then get a job. At least in Connecticut for all practical purposes you need the job first, then the training is opened to you.

    Finding a new way to fund police training

    Coventry police officers are taking their stalled salary negotiations to arbitration, the first time a Coventry union has gone that route in at least 16 years.

    The union says it is underpaid compared to members of other departments in the Hartford area. It is an often heard complaint of many public employees — from teachers to public works — in smaller towns.

    Towns pay to the best of their ability and often end up losing employees to other, larger towns that pay better for comparable positions.

    One thing that makes the loss of police officers different — and more expensive to the smaller town — is that it is usually the smaller town that has footed the bill for the officer’s training at the Municipal Police Training Academy and his or her extended on-the-job “internship.”

    Teachers, for example, are responsible for the cost of acquiring their own degrees and professional certifications. Towns do not pay to send would-be truck mechanics to tech school. In essence, these employees are free agents, able to sell their services to the highest bidder.

    But towns do pay the cost of training, certification and breaking-in police officers. Larger towns, with larger payroll budgets, are able to advertise for and hire officers who are already certified and proven, saving themselves the cost and risk of training applicants and hoping they end up with a good cop at the end of it all.

    This is not an issue just in Coventry. Willimantic, the other municipality in the area that maintains its own department, has similar problems of training and breaking in officers only to lose them to towns with higher pay scales.

    Residents lose twice, too. Not only do they foot the bill for training, but they lose the value of experience, knowledge of the community, and institutional memory.

    Public payrolls, like private, are ultimately limited by the ability to pay. But perhaps one way of relieving the smaller towns of the burden of training police officers — one which they increasingly seem to carry more and — is changing the way the police academy is funded.

    Currently towns pay tuition for each student they send. Instead, perhaps the academy should levy an annual per capita fee based on the authorized strength of each department which relies on the state academy for training (some larger cities, like Hartford, operate their own training academies).

    This would spread out the cost of training and certification equally among all the towns based on the size of their police departments, lessening the incentive of larger towns to rely on their higher salaries to attract already certified officers and escape the costs of training their own.

    And it would provide all the towns with a steady, predictable expense for budget planning purposes, effectively spreading out the cost of training over years when a town sends no one to the academy and years when a town trains two or three new officers.

    Although it won’t eliminate the salary gap per se, it will give the smaller towns more wriggle room by eliminating the incentive of larger, wealthier towns to steal from the poor.

    IACOJ Canine Officer

  • #2
    If you go to med school, law school. electrician school. whatever school, who pays the tuition? You do.

    I acknowledge that I was put through the Academy courtesy of my employer.

    However, since that time, the state of NJ has developed what the call the "Alternate Route Plan". The student applies directly to the Academy for a very limited number of openings in this program. The student pays all tuition himself. When he graduates, he is then eligible to accept employment with any department in the State willing to hire him/her. Most of the time, the student is hired before the Academy is over.

    The Academies are finding that these Alternate Route students are more motivated and dedicated then many traditional students. They are also higher academic achievers.

    I believe there are other states that have similar systems. I think that this would be a great way to fund the Academy.


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