Thursday, July 5, 2012

(Riverside) Grand Jury: College of the Desert police academy not up to par

Written by K Kaufmann
The Desert Sun

PALM DESERT — A Riverside County Grand Jury report slams College of the Desert's Public Safety Academy for not meeting official police training standards and turning out cadets who are unable to pass muster with Coachella Valley police departments.
Among the grand jury's findings:
The academy claimed to offer all the necessary courses a cadet would need to become a certified police officer, but it was not, itself, certified to offer a key module in the required training.
Instruction and classes are outdated. The report contends that some instructors simply showed cadets videos rather than teach prepared lessons.
Valley police chiefs stated some academy graduates they hired were unprepared to pass their departments' probationary period. Only one academy graduate hired within the past five years is still employed by a valley law enforcement agency.
The academy's advisory board, composed of police chiefs from the valley and surrounding area, meets irregularly, and some members said it has been ineffective. In one case, a person listed on the school's website as sitting on the board did not know he was a member.
Required standards

The report also includes recommendations that COD meet the state training standards required to teach the necessary courses so cadets may be certified as full-time police officers.
The school should also improve its instruction and correct any misleading promotional materials, the report recommended.
Riverside County grand juries primarily consider civil cases, but also review criminal allegations.
Designed as an oversight body for governments, the 19-person panel can bring indictments or develop recommendations.
The grand jury's report was made public June 27. COD has until Sept. 23 to file a response.
COD spokeswoman Pam Hunter said Wednesday that school officials will review the grand jury recommendations.
“Our incoming president-superintendent Joel Kinnamon will be working with college staff and the Board of Trustees to develop a process to analyze all the findings and recommendations in the grand jury report and based on that to create an appropriate action plan as needed,” she said.
The situation once again calls into question the ability of COD's leadership to head off serious problems at the school or respond effectively when they surface.
The grand jury report was released days after the publication of a months-long Desert Sun investigation into the COD football program. In the iSun Investigation, the Desert Sun found dozens of criminal cases involving COD players or players charged before joining the COD team. Three of the incidents involved multiple players on COD's 2011 football roster. Those incidents resulting in three felony cases.
More than 56 percent of the school's football roster also comes from states other than California, though state rules prohibit recruiting players from outside of a school's district.
Administrators and board members were aware of the escalating violence of the football players, but no one called for an investigation into it, now-retired COD president Jerry Patton said.
Patton did not respond to Desert Sun phone calls on Wednesday seeking comment on the grand jury report regarding the school's police academy.
In this case, COD appears to have already updated information on the academy's Web page, which states that it offers only two of the three sets of courses, or modules, cadets need to to become certified full-time police officers. Completing the first two modules only qualifies cadets to become reserve officers, the site says.
Indio and Palm Springs police officials say their departments have several officers hired straight out of the academy — possibly more than five years ago — who have met required standards, and more.
Palm Springs police Sgt. Mike Kovaleff said Wednesday that his department's most recent hire from the academy was in 2009.
“She's a great officer,” he said.
Kovaleff, who also teaches at the academy, said his classes meet state standards.“I have a classroom regimen with no videos, just basic instruction, PowerPoint (presentations), quizzes,” he said.
Unprepared for duty
At the heart of the grand jury report is whether COD's academy — established in 2001 specifically to train police officers for the valley — has been meeting rigorous state training standards.
The Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, is a state commission that sets minimum selection and training standards for California law enforcement agencies. Personnel at the more than 600 agencies that voluntarily participate in POST are eligible for leadership training programs and research into officer selection standards.
COD had been certified to offer two of the three required POST modules, but had partnered with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department to offer the final and most rigorous module.
The modules must be taken in sequence, beginning with Module 3 and ending with Module 1, and should dovetail into each other, said Sheriff Stanley Sniff Jr.
But trainers from the sheriff's department were finding that COD cadets were not well prepared, he said.
The few COD graduates the department has hired were “very uneven,” Sniff said.
“It has not been the quality we had hoped for, and a lot of it is stemming from COD maintaining control of Modules 3 and 2,” he said. “It's a heck of a jump for a COD student coming out of Level 2 and jumping into Level 1.”
Another red flag, Sniff said, became apparent in May 2009 when when a sheriff's department patrol car being used in a training class at COD blew up, leaving a cadet with first- and second degree burns.
A proper academy
A series of letters The Desert Sun obtained from the sheriff's department document the break- up of the school's partnership with the department.
In a letter dated Sept. 21, 2010, then-president Patton informed Sniff that COD would pursue its own POST certification for Module 1, with an intended start date of July 2012.
Sniff responded that his department would withdraw the funds it had committed to its training courses at COD and use them for other training programs.
But by May 2011, COD seems to have reconsidered going it alone, and Patton approached Sniff about re-establishing the partnership.
Sniff responded in a May 12, 2011 letter laying out conditions for resumption of its training programs at COD. Those requirements included the academy meeting POST standards and essentially putting itself under the supervision of the sheriff's Ben Clark Training Center.
The grand jury report notes there are no current negotiations between COD and the sheriff's department.
Sniff said, the department could not provide any funding to the academy until its 2012-2013 funding cycle.
“They can't even call themselves an academy unless they offer all three courses,” Sniff said.
“They are in an awkward circumstance now; they're neither fish nor fowl. We don't normally see POST empowering any community college on its own.”
Desert Sun reporter Kate McGinty contributed to this report.

1 comment:

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