Portland police recruits may be hitting the streets much earlier, in full uniform with firearms and a training coach, as they await slots at the state police academy, The Oregonian reports. Nine recruits this year have completed a four-week training program shortly after getting hired. In this orientation or “pre-academy,” officers train the recruits on defensive tactics, firearms, and the law. Then, they’re sent to the streets to respond to emergency calls — always assigned to a field training officer — until there’s an opening in the 16-week academy.
“It’s a departure from the way we had trained for about the last 20 years. I think it’s going to be an improvement,” Police Chief Rosie Sizer said. “At some point, you have to go out, and be taught and practice.” The police department is assigning recruits to spend time with community groups — coaching youth in the Police Athletic League or providing food baskets to needy families, for example — before they start basic training. Supervisors say the two programs give recruits a worthwhile experience while they sometimes must wait months for a basic academy slot. In the past, recruits could get stuck answering phones or doing desk work, not considered constructive work for a new hire eager to learn the ropes of policing. “We think this is a far more meaningful experience for them,” Sizer said.