CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Training new police officers is not easy and it is even tougher when they cannot be in the classroom together. So instructors at the U of I’s Police Training Institute have had to adapt as they try to teach new recruits how to do one of the most essential jobs.
“The Police Training Academy has been open since 1955,” said Michael Schlosser, UI Police Training Institute Director. “We are the first Police academy in the state of Illinois, one of the first in the United State.” Schlosser has contributed to that legacy for more than 20 years. The pandemic was never going to stop that.
“Obviously this is an essential occupation. We need police officers on the street,”said Schlosser. Over the years, thousands of police officer recruits have trained in the institute’s building, but this year they won’t be seeing much of it. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to have recruits here, and we feel like we can learn so much more when we’re interacting with the recruits in [the] classroom.” The good news is a lot of that can be taught online.
“We can go through our power points, we can have interactions, we can have questions and have conversations,” said Schlosser. But a lot of it cannot. New officers need to be qualified and certified in firearms, CPR, and control and arrest tactics. They have to master intense de-escalation scenarios. Even though things are different now, Schlosser said they have to make it work.
“There is so much in-person, hands-on training that is absolutely necessary…We know you can learn some things in a classroom. But it’s not until you can put those things into practice, in scenario-based training, that things actually click,” said Schlosser. That means there can be no shortcuts or cutting corners. The standard to which these officers are trained is not being compromised throughout all this. “That is correct,” said Schlosser. “We would never compromise the training. It is vital, essential that we send officers that have graduated, so that they’re safe. They’re competent, they’re ready to hit the streets.” The director said they are working with the governor to create guidelines for the in-person portions of the training and that might take longer than usual.
Recruit classes usually last 14 weeks, but the director said they might have to extend that. Once they graduate, officers get several more months of field training. They will also be under a probationary period.