Vancouver has joined other Southwest Washington municipalities to advocate for a training facility that may ease strain felt by law enforcement agencies across Washington.
The Vancouver City Council endorsed a statewide effort Monday to address law enforcement staffing shortages and rising crime by creating a regional police training facility. They coalesced with other regional city and county councils that have similar draft resolutions, including Camas and Cowlitz County.
Currently, aspiring Washington officers must attend the Criminal Justice Training Center in suburban King County, which poses a challenge for those who don’t live in the Seattle metropolitan area. Despite there being a satellite academy in Spokane, there is an insufficient training capacity for those working toward their certifications, as 90 percent of cadets attend the academy in King County.
In July, Gov. Jay Inslee proposed an expansion of the police academy by adding four regional police training campuses to its network, which are projected to be in Vancouver, Pasco, Everett and Bellingham. Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, intends on introducing a bill in the state’s 2023 legislative session to bring this to fruition – something he’s positive will be supported by both caucuses, Lovick previously told The Columbian.
The Clark County Law Enforcement Council will continue to seek support from regional departments, policymakers and community organizations leading up to the legislative session. Once more agencies sign their respective resolutions, they will be bundled and handed to the governor to display Southwest Washington’s support.
Policymakers hope the added facilities will draw police officer candidates within a 50-mile radius who will, after graduation, serve their own communities. Establishing the facility in the region would remove barriers to joining law enforcement, increase competitiveness for recruiting and grow the state’s training capacity for officers, according to a staff report.
“Whereas, a local regional public safety academy improves community engagement and outreach efforts by increasing equitable access to all, and by providing more opportunities for female and persons from our underrepresented communities of color to become local peace officers,” the resolution read.
Vancouver Police Chief Jeff Mori said it would play a key role in resolving the agency’s worsening staffing shortages and rising crime rates.
Law enforcement agencies across the county and state have fewer officers due to a combination of resignations, retirements and a shortage of applicants. The Vancouver Police Department estimates many more officers will become eligible for retirement within the next biennium, according to the staff report.
Planning for the Criminal Justice Training Center’s additional footprint in Southwest Washington is still in its early phase, meaning there aren’t many details of what the campus would look like. There will inevitably be a large cost to build and staff the regional academy, but it’s expected to be funded by the state.
“Even if we found a location tomorrow and the state gave us money Thursday, it probably would take at least a year or more to construct it,” Mori said, noting that the project could take at least five years to complete in a best-case scenario.
Mori previously told The Columbian an ideal campus would be located close to the freeway and resemble the Washington County sheriff’s 100,000-square-foot facility in Oregon, where Mori was formerly an undersheriff. There would be multiple classrooms and training spaces, shooting ranges, a vehicle operations course and virtual reality rooms.