Four new police training academies proposed to help tackle state police shortage

Washington has the fewest police officers per capita in the country. Now, Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a new plan to help fix the shortage of police officers that focuses on bringing in new recruits.

In a news conference on Thursday, the governor and many police chiefs and sheriffs said they want to see more training centers across the state, adding locations to Pasco, Everett, Bellingham and Vancouver. Spokane County is already working on building another police academy in a separate project.

The announcement brought top brass from all over the state to the Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien, with law enforcement from Skagit to Spokane counties.

“The turnout you see today speaks volumes. This is a topic of high concern,” said Steve Crown, police chief of the City of Wenatchee. Crown is also president of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The plan would add four more police academy training facilities that will use the same coursework currently used in Burien, where the only police academy in the state is located.

“This has created a logjam in the process,” Inslee said. “Right now we have 130 recruits who have to wait four months just to start this training. That’s not acceptable,” Inslee said.

“I’m supportive of this approach to create regional academies across the state,” said King County Sheriff Patti Cole-Tindall. “The result will be more officers on the street and will have a direct impact on crime reduction,” she said.

Several police chiefs also mentioned the traveling distance to Burien as another barrier to recruiting. Pasco Police Chief Ken Roske shared examples of people interested in the job that couldn’t train and live in Burien.

“Unfortunately, the qualified candidate could not leave her family, her children, for four-and-a-half months. She certainly could’ve left the academy during the day and went back home,” Roske said.

State senator John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) says he will introduce the plan next session.

“This will bring relief to law enforcement agencies that have been overburdened and understaffed,” Lovick said.

KIRO 7′s Deedee Sun asked asked the governor and lawmakers how many taxpayer dollars the new plans would cost.

“Whatever it costs to make this available is a tremendous asset. To have a well-trained officer rather than nobody there to answer your 911 call is a heck of a good deal,” Inslee said.

Lovick said they are still working on figuring out the price tag.

“We not going to let cost stop us from doing what we need to do,” Lovick said.

“When you see these great men and women,” Lovick said. “They want to keep people safe in their homes, on our streets, and protect our children in our schools. So cost will have nothing to do with that,” he said.

If the state legislature passes the plan in the next session, the first new training facility would be in Pasco, because the city already has the infrastructure and location selected. Other locations would be added after that.