POST academy unlikely in parish

Published 2:47 am Saturday, January 30, 2016

Friday morning, law enforcement leadership from around the region met at the Northshore Technical Community College with college officials to discuss the possibility of beginning a Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) course at the college.

Curt Hodge, a retired probation and parole officer, said the meeting came about because the community college was concerned that too many of their criminal justice graduates were having trouble finding work in law enforcement agencies. Hodge said that’s because while many agencies appreciate candidates with degrees, a POST certification is almost mandatory. If a would-be law enforcement officer is not POST-certified before he or she gets hired, this puts the burden on the hiring agency.

“If they’re not POST-certified through another agency, then they have to go and offer them training,” Hodge said.

As the law now stands, agencies hire a candidate and then pay his or her way through the POST program, which is a 15-week program, and there is no guarantee a candidate will pass the program. If individuals could pay their own way through a POST program, this would relieve some economic burden from t agencies and it could attract students to a community college that offered such a program.

At present, Washington Parish has no such program, and law enforcement agencies in this parish must send their trainees to POST training in St. Tammany Parish.

“I know there’s a lot of qualified instructors and people willing to train in Washington Parish,” said Hodge.

However, starting a POST program isn’t easy. It requires state authorization, possibly a change in state law and funding, none of which is guaranteed — especially as the state faces a deficit of over $1 billion.

“The hurdle is with the law enforcement commission and the laws,” said Hodge. “As in, who can run a POST academy and how they’re certified. It might have to be a law enforcement agency.”

Because of these stipulations, it is unlikely NTCC will offer a POST program in the near future.

“We’re probably not going to offer a full POST program,” said William Wainwright, NTCC chancellor.

Wainwright sat in through most of the meeting, and he said there are other ways his college could support law enforcement besides a POST program.

“There is a need for non-credit programs,” he said.

Based on comments from the 10 chiefs who met, agencies need Spanish language training as well as training in English grammar.

“I have guys who don’t know that a complete sentence includes a subject and a verb,” said one chief.

Poor grammar and unclear sentences can hamper courtroom convictions, he explained.
Besides that, the college’s associate’s degree in criminal justice program could be useful as it is.

“I didn’t know you had a degree in criminal justice program,” said Major Sterling Herbert, a commander in the St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s office. “Because we’re all about higher education.”

He said his office will pay tuition costs for employees, and employees can receive raises based on their education level.

POST training aside, Wainwright said he hopes to work with agencies in future partnerships.

“We’re happy to be a partner in education based on what you need of us,” he told the chiefs.