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WCC Board’s police academy discussion

The following transcript is an excerpt from the June 23, 2020 Board of Trustees meeting. It follows a presentation by Vice President Brandon Tucker about the WCC Police Academy, and the training that students receive while they are in the police academy program. This portion of the meeting represents a discussion of about 10 minutes.

Christina Fleming: Any other questions from the Trustees on the Police Academy?

David DeVarti: I have some questions.

CF: Go ahead, Dave.

DD: Um, so Vice President Tucker, can I get a copy of this, because as I was looking at the slides, I was writing down some notes that are going to be questions, and I’d like to just submit some written questions to you that I could get some responses to. But if I could get a copy of the PowerPoint, that would be great.

DD: Um, going into the breakdown on the gender and racial makeup of the classes, I’m wondering if – you said we have 40 people incoming to the Fall academy?

Brandon Tucker: Forty – there’s forty-two in queue. Uh, that number could change. You know –

DD: Could you get us a breakdown by gender and race of this upcoming Fall academy? Just as a momentary snapshot?

BT: Mmm hmm.

DD: We offer – what? 820 hours of instruction? Now, to complete the academy, are they required to take all those 820 hours?

BT: They are. It is a requirement that they complete the entire – um – the entire number of hours. Yes.

DD: And – how many weeks does that usually take for that completion?

BT: 18 weeks. 18 weeks. And we are – um, the range and I failed to mention this, and I apologize, the range is anywhere from 15-16 weeks up to 22 weeks. So each academy, as I mentioned, adds hours in, based upon their regional needs. And we – when we first started, we were at 21. And people were not coming to us because we were one of the longest academies. And what we’ve done is really work – in the last three-and -a-half years with our advisory board to get us to a number that still has what our agencies are saying that needs to be taught, but it’s not as long. And 18 is probably the lowest we would ever go at this point.

DD: In addition to the PowerPoint on this, could I get a list of the entire curriculum? Like, what the classes are? Exactly?

BT: Yeah, so inside of this PowerPoint, Trustee DeVarti, and it was small, but you’re not going to be able to see it –

DD: Yeah, it went by quickly. I was starting to take notes on it, and it swish it was gone.

BT: Yep, we can get you that.

DD: Um – the – tr – our instructors – are they full-time or part-time?

BT: Our instructors are part-time. They’re all part-time.

DD: And are they –

BT: Uh, with the –

DD: Did they – do they all come from law enforcement backgrounds? Actually, I’d like to get the background or training of our – not by name necessarily – of all of our instructors. So, here are our instructors. What I am looking for are instructors that have backgrounds in dealing with mental health issues, or dealing with – specifically with strategies for de-escalation, maybe from a social work perspective as opposed to a policing perspective. And I’m wondering if … I’d just like to see what we have in terms of our instructors to see what kind of backgrounds our instructors are bringing to the training program.

BT: So, if I may, would it be helpful – you’re talking about in those specialized areas?

DD: No.

BT: There’s 90 – there’s 96 – roughly, give or take –

DD: Right

BT: – part time instructors.

DD: Ok.

BT: But some of those are teaching um – um – you know, EVO – Emergency Vehicle Operations. How to stop the car.

DD: Right.

BT: Those might be teaching 2 or 4 hours, and those are – you know – um, what we call – more training versus actual classroom instruction.

DD: Right, I got that.

BT: So classroom – those kind of – de-escalation, mental health, officer – you know – well-being, self-care, those are more specialized, and we could probably get you a list of those.

DD: Um I -uh – if we have 96 instructors, can’t we just say – person – this instructor has – uh – twenty years of law enforcement experience? That’s his background. That’s what the expertise they bring – This person has training in mental health field and policing. Or you know – like – it would be nice to just get – I mean – we have resumes on all of them. We could black out the names, and I could see what backgrounds they have – without attaching names to – I don’t want to get at personnel records where I’m looking at what

Angela Davis: You don’t need that.

DD: I want to see what training we have. What backgrounds our trainers have.

Dianna McKnight Morton: Oooh. I’d like to make a suggestion. This is Trustee McKnight-Morton and I hear what Trustee –

DD: I mean, I could put –

DMM: DeVarti is saying, but what I would like to say is, um, if it’s possible, that – um – that – if anyone else is interested in this information, other than what we just heard, this presentation, then they need to say that. Um – one person – we’ve gone through this before – for one person to request something like that, just for them, it really eliminates the rest of the Board because we’re all listening to the same thing. Now, as what you’re asking, I think that’s something that should be directed to the President, not to the Vice President. Even though he’s in charge of the program, I think that it should be directed to the President, if this is a possibility, not that you want it.

DD: Fine. Fine. I’ll direct it to the President.

CF: Uh, ok, if I may, um President Bellanca, could we just get like a really super-general thumbnail on like, half of ’em have this experience. 25% of ’em have this experience. Like, just keep it really super general –

DD: That won’t get at it. That –

Ruth Hatcher: This is Ruth Hatcher.

DD: I’ll put in a written request to President Bellanca.

CF: Oh, ok. Um

Rose Bellanca: You know –

DD: I think that this is probably pretty easy to see. I view what I’m – I view – my interest in this as coming from a policy perspective, not – I’m not trying to get down in the weeds and do – and say – micromanage, but I want a broad – to look at it as a broad policy perspective to see how much of our training is strictly coming from long-term law enforcement and how much is coming from other areas of expertise. And I – it’s totally relevant as a policy matter for this to be looked at. And I’ll direct questions to the President.

RB: Um –

BT: It –

RB: I need to – respectfully, I’d like to do whatever the Board wants.

RH: This is Ruth Hatcher. May I say something?

CF: Ok. How about –

RB: You know, I do whatever – I mean, if that’s – I don’t get – maybe when you talk to me, David, I’ll have a better understanding. It seems like a lot to go through ninety people, and write down all the training they have. And um, I think that’s to give you a comfort level, which I respect, but I don’t see how that relates to policy. But I think that gives you a comfort level and I respect that you need that comfort level. If the Board of Trustees –

DD: I just want to say, I’ve found time and time again, that you’ve been very responsive to me and to my inquiries. I highly respect your responsiveness and, you know, we can just talk and work out what the appropriate level of information is, and I respect your judgment on this.

RB: Thank you. Yeah, let’s talk about it. Thank you. I appreciate that.

CF: Ok. Any other Trustees have a question?

RB: I saw Ruth’s box light up

RH: Yeah, my uh I’m no longer connected to the meeting visually, but I’m on the phone. I think it’s very important for us to know the background of those instructors. Because we’re responsible as Trustees for supervis – or uh – offering this training to police, and it seems that in the current environment, the training of police is very, very important. Um, and if they’re trained by the Good Old Boys, who’ve been there forever, that’s a different thing than if they have some training with social workers or mental health workers or um, more modern policing methods. And I know that David – neither David nor I are trying to impugn the program with this, but we have a responsibility to know that we are training police in a progressive, humanistic way, and the only way we can do that – or at least one way we can do that is to look at the qualifications of the instructors. And I think it’s very important.

CF: Ok, thank you Ruth. Um, President Bellanca, I’m gonna trust you on this one. You know, I don’t –

RB: Trust me on all of them!

CF: I don’t want to you know, invade anybody’s privacy. I don’t want to – um – you know, cross any line that shouldn’t be crossed but there may be just a general community interest in just kind of knowing what the background is. I don’t

RB: I understand. We’ll figure something out

CF: Yeah.

RB: I’ll figure something out with Dave.

CF: OK, thank you. I don’t want it to be hard. I don’t want it to be hard at all.

RB: No, I understand.

CF: Ok.

DMM: Madam Chair?

CF: Yes, ma’am.

DMM: This is McKnight-Morton, and um what I said to Trustee DeVarti is not that I don’t want to know. I think we all need to know. That’s all I’m saying. What I am saying is this. I think when a question is asked of an individual who is doing a presentation, if there’s certain things that you would like, present it in a way so that the Board is involved in this, not just one individual. That’s all I’m saying. And this type of instance, or other instances, that it needs to be presented to the President, because she is over these programs, and she’s the one can help with this information versus the Vice Presidents. I hope I made myself clear. Thank you, Madam Chair.

CF: Yes. Yep. Thank you. Any other questions on the Police Academy topic?

This exchange about the Police Academy is significant for several reasons. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at why that’s the case.

Photo Credit: Cristiano Deana, via Flickr