It’s not always easy for local law enforcement agencies to find the officers they need, but the Alamo Area Regional Law Enforcement Academy is trying to do its part to help.
The academy is looking for new recruits for its basic peace officer course.
Miguel Segura, external affairs coordinator for the Alamo Area Council of Governments, which runs the academy, said every agency in the area has been struggling with recruitment.
“Fortunately for us we’ve been maintaining, but obviously our job is to help those smaller jurisdictions get more law enforcement officers,” Segura said. “The more folks we can have, the better prepared and secured are rural cities and counties are.”
Shawn Palmer, law enforcement academy manager said the economy is driving some of the difficulties.
“Unemployment’s low so there’s jobs out there in the private sector,” he said. “So I think that’s a big part of it. And then I think the way that law enforcement is being portrayed in a negative way sometimes discourages people from taking on the challenge.”
Better recruits, better policing
The Marshall Project reported that policing experts said cities are too focused on raw numbers, and that it’s more important to focus on what officers do rather the quantity of officers.
The training at the Alamo Area academy differs from others. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement requires recruits to have 643 hours of training, but at the Alamo Area academy, the training is close to 1,000 hours.
That’s because the academy trains them in other areas not required or part of the basic police course.
“The reality based training that we do, it’s not required, so we get a lot of those hours as part of that system,” Palmer said.
Another course not required is certification for things like Taser use.
Palmer said that means that when Alamo Area cadets graduate, they are more job ready.
“When they get a job at the agency, that agency will usually then have to send them to get the certification,” Palmer said. “So cadets who graduate from here are more marketable for agencies because they know they don’t have to send them back for that training. They already have it.”
There is a process of entry for applying and attending the academy. First, there is no age limit. Second, applicants must pay for and take a test, which is a statewide requirement.
The test costs $35, and consists of basic comprehension such as reading, math and general knowledge.
Applicants must also have a high school diploma or a GED, proof of auto insurance, citizenship and a valid driver’s license.
The tuition for the training is $2,900. For an honorable discharge veteran, their Post 9/11 G.I. Bill could cover it. Others will pay one-half on orientation day, and the second half by mid-term.
There are additional costs, such as the medical clearance, drug screening and psychological testing.
If an agency sends a cadet for training, the agency pays for it.
Making the jump
That’s the case for Seth Prochaska, who is training for the New Braunfels Police Department.
Prochaska said he is not originally from New Braunfels, but his wife is, and he’s grown to love it.
“I wanted to do something that I could actively give back and be part of that community that I love so much,” he said.
Prochaska said the hardest part about the training so far was the entry tests. He had to test for the NBPD, and then repeat the process at the academy.
After that, it wasn’t hard for him. His work at a correctional facility before switching over to law enforcement may have helped. His father-in-law was in law enforcement for 22 years and was a master peace officer while his mother-in-law did 25 years in corrections, and was a master corrections officer.
As for where he wants his career to go, he said wherever the NBPD tells him to go.
“If positions come open, awesome. If they put me on patrol and I stay on patrol for 15 years, awesome,” Prochaska said. “The one thing about New Braunfels is that we all love our community, and I’m willing to do anything for my community that needs to be done.”
Prochaska is due to graduate in December.
The next basic peace officer course will start on September 30. Those seeking to apply must do so by Aug. 22.