Lack of instructors is primary obstacle for NKY police basic training academy, police chiefs say

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Taylor Mills Police Chief James Mills Jr. told the Kenton County Mayors Group on Saturday that what he had to say may make them want to run him out of the room.

“We are not in a position right now to do basic training here,” he said.

Mills, who is also a board member of the Northern Kentucky Police Chiefs Association talked to the group of mayors about the possibility of setting up a new basic training academy for police recruits in the Northern Kentucky region.

Conversations about the need for a basic training academy in the region have occupied the minds of many municipal leaders over the past year. Several cities, including Independence, Fort Wright, Covington and Park Hills, have passed resolutions supporting the establishment of a local training center in an effort to expedite training for new recruits.

Police recruits in Kentucky are required to undergo 20 weeks of basic in-person training at an established training academy, in addition to 80 hours of online work they must complete before the in-person training. The closest basic training academy is in Richmond, meaning there are no local options for recruits in NKY. Coupled with a long backlog for the existing academies, this has had the effect of unnecessarily extending the amount of time it takes to get an officer on the street, many contend.

“We’re talking about April or May,” said Independence Police Chief Brian Ferayorni at the Independence City Council meeting on Monday when asked when a new recruit could expect to begin their training at an academy if the city hired them next week.

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All this is contextualized by a broader problem of police recruiting in the region, which stems from a variety of factors, including changing attitudes toward police work, pay competition from departments across the river, reforms to the Kentucky police pension system and a large number of impending retirements.

“Over the course of [a] 10-year period, we have sent on average 46 recruits to the [basic training] academy from agencies up here,” Mills said, referring to the 19 counties in the Northern Kentucky region as designated by the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police. “Now that’s out of 52 agencies and 1,000 officers, we’re sending right at 46 recruits down per year. So that is a little over one total class size at DCJT.”

DCJT refers to the Department of Criminal Justice Training, the largest training department for law enforcement in the commonwealth.

Mills noted that there is a training center in Northern Kentucky in the form of the Northern Kentucky Police & Sheriff Training Center, but that center offers no basic training. Instead, it focuses on continuing police training for established officers, whom the state requires to undergo 40 hours of continued training annually. Such courses include specialized fire arm training, patrolling techniques, constitutional procedures and driving skills among others.

Mills said that in its current state, the local police infrastructure didn’t have the resources to establish a robust basic training center–the Northern Kentucky Police & Sheriff Training Center, for instance, doesn’t even have a dedicated physical location.

“The primary reason is instructor availability,” Mills said.

Mills said the requirements for becoming a basic training instructor are long and involved. Even when someone follows all of the necessary steps, there’s no guarantee they’ll get certified. He gave an example of an officer from Erlanger who was preparing to get certified as an instructor.

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“The last class that they had, we had one person in it from Northern Kentucky, and they [the Department of Criminal Justice Training] canceled the class,” Mills said.

For local leaders who are serious about getting a basic training academy in the region, Mills said, they will have to consider how the academy would be set-up: Would it be run directly through the state, or would it fall under a regional body like the Northern Kentucky Police Chiefs Association?

“The basic academy is something that we can all have a conversation about,” Mills said. “I think we need to determine and decide, do we want that to be a state-ran basic academy, or are you looking at having that as a Northern Kentucky-type academy that is ran by the Northern Kentucky Police Chiefs Association and the Police & Sheriffs’ Training Center?”

Although many of the programs offered by the local center are expanding, Mills said, “We’re just not there yet… logistically”

The next meeting of the Kenton County Mayors Group will take place on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 9 a.m. at the Crestview Hills City Building on Town Center Boulevard.

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