Law Enforcement Training Academy Director
Arizona Western College
Associate Vice President for Workforce Development and Career & Technical Education
Arizona Western College
Yuma, AZ (September 15, 2020) – Arizona Western College hosted a press conference at the Parker Learning Center on Thursday, September 10, to share about expanding partnerships with regional law enforcement and funding from Arizona@Work to enroll cadets in the college’s Law Enforcement Training Academy (LETA).
During the event, law enforcement agencies shared how they have benefitted from sending their recruits to the AWC LETA, which is creating a pipeline of skilled officers for the communities the college serves, and beyond, at a fraction of the cost.
A number of agencies from La Paz and Mohave counties have recently committed to sending their cadets to the academy, including: Kingman Police Department, Mohave County Sherriff’s Office, La Paz County Sherriff’s Office, Colorado River Indian Tribe (CRIT) Police Department, and CRIT Fish & Game. This is due to the diligent work of LETA Director Alfonso Zavala and academy staff, who have sought to create a program that meets the needs of multiple different types of law enforcement.
“The AWC LETA is based on the needs of everybody when it comes down to the county or partners we’re working with,” said Zavala. “We want to make sure we’re open to suggestions. We continue to work with other counties we’ve built partnerships with, and hopefully we can turn this academy into one of the best in the state.”
These new agency collaborations build upon existing partnerships the academy has in place with the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, Yuma Police Department, Somerton Police Department, San Luis Police Department, Quechan Police Department, Cocopah Tribal Police Department, Wellton Police Department, Quartzsite Police Department, Globe Police Department, and Coconino County Sherriff’s Office.
The full-time program was formed over the course of a four month period in 2019 in response to area agencies requesting a local, more affordable training option. Yuma agencies were previously paying around $25,000 to have their cadets trained at out-of-town academies. The AWC LETA costs local agencies about $1,000, plus equipment costs, and the cost for out-of-town agencies is less than $6,000, plus equipment costs.
AWC has taken the cost savings for agencies a step further by partnering with Arizona@Work, which is providing federal funding for qualifying cadets from Yuma, La Paz, and Mohave counties to pay for the entire cost of the academy. Arizona@Work is known for providing comprehensive statewide and locally-based solutions for job seekers and employers looking for training or retraining to enter the workforce.
“We’re connecting agencies with Arizona@Work to receive funding that covers all costs for students related to the academy,” said Reetika Dhawan, Vice President for Workforce Development and CTE. “We’ve helped save local agencies about $400,000 that they would have previously spent on out-of-town academies. We’re always looking for ways to create further savings for our communities.”
La Paz County Sherriff Bill Risen, who was elected to his position in 2016, shared about the challenges his department previously faced when sending deputies to more costly academies.
“Since I’ve been sheriff, we’ve used a number of academies throughout the state of Arizona. What was originally a fairly economical thing to do, some of the academies went up to over $20,000 to $30,000 to put an officer through, which is an astronomical amount for the number of people that we have to put through,” he said.
And one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to law enforcement training.
“We have custody, we have the county jails, we’re charged with the Arizona Revised Statues for doing certain tasks, we have to provide search and rescue, dive teams, all kinds of things, and so we’re in need of something a little bit different than a regular police academy. The police academies sometimes don’t really relate to what we do,” said Risen. “That’s why it was so exciting to have an academy that actually differentiates and teaches part of the sheriff’s way of what we need to do.”
The La Paz County Sheriff’s Office currently has three deputies enrolled in the AWC LETA, set to graduate in November. The third cohort of the academy will begin on Oct. 19.
“The expanding partnerships and training opportunities through this program demonstrates AWC’s ability to work together and develop avenues for individuals, agencies, and our community to continue to grow, prosper, and find relevant and direct pathways to education, training, and employment,” said Kathy Ocampo, Associate Dean for La Paz County Services.
The efforts of this program are also in line with AWC’s mission statement to transform lives through education and partnerships to create thriving communities.
For those unable to attend the press conference, the video can be found here.