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Feb. 5, 2023

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Kelso, Woodland OK resolutions supporting Southwest Washington law enforcement training campus

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LONGVIEW — Cowlitz County cities are supporting a state proposal to create a law enforcement training campus in Southwest Washington so incoming officers can train closer to home.

The Woodland City Council approved a measure of support during its meeting Monday and the Kelso City Council approved a similar measure Tuesday. The Longview City Council is scheduled to vote on a comparable resolution at its Thursday meeting.

At the beginning of September, the Kalama City Council approved a letter to two state legislators supporting the new academy.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced a proposal in July to create four new training locations for law enforcement agents, including one in Southwest Washington.

The two existing Basic Law Enforcement Academy locations are in Burien and Spokane, the closest of which is a two-hour drive from Longview. New police recruits spend nearly five months studying at the basics academy before doing any training with the department that hired them.

“Right now any new officers are away from their families for a long time, for the duration of the academy and are only coming home on the weekends,” Woodland Police Chief Jim Kelly said.

The almost word-for-word identical resolutions passed in Woodland and Kelso say the closer training would make it easier for departments to recruit local cadets. Easier and local hiring could help address an upcoming surge in retirements or resignations that multiple departments have said they expect to see, according to the resolutions.

Kelly said closer training centers would also save many agencies money. The officers in training are already employed by the local departments, so at least some of the training and transportation costs are covered by the department.

The state’s proposal suggested the new locations would be in Vancouver, Bellingham, Everett and Pasco. Kelso Police Chief Darr Kirk said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting he and other law enforcement leaders in the region hoped for a facility between Ridgefield and Kalama. Kelly agreed a local option is preferred.

“We’d love to have it around here, but the closer the better,” Kelly said.

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