Many assume that police officers are rigorously trained before being allowed to patrol the streets. Drive through rural Louisiana and it’s possible to be stopped by a law enforcement officer who’s never experienced a day of police academy and instruction on use of force, stressful scenarios and the need for physical fitness that comes with it, reports the Shreveport (LA) Times. Sometimes, an eight-hour firearms training and on-the-job guidance is all an officer gets before starting work as a salaried, gun-toting, arrest-making officer. Due to a permissive aspect of state law, a hodgepodge of different standards can crop up from one small agency to the next. It’s a pattern experts say puts police departments, and the public, at risk.
In small, often poorly-funded townships, many police departments take advantage of a state law that allows full-time officers to serve a year before finishing academy and obtaining their Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) certification. Officers working 39 hours a week or fewer are not required to attend police academy, which typically lasts around 16 weeks, even if they work for years on end. And some departments simply violate the law, sometimes failing to send full-time officers to the academy, says Capt. Kenny Sanders, director of the Caddo Sheriff’s Regional Academy. “It scares me to think that my wife and daughter are cruising the streets of Louisiana and there’s an officer that may pull them over on the road on a traffic stop and he’s totally untrained,” he says.