FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The first class of certified police officers to graduate outside the West Virginia Law Enforcement Academy will be recognized at the Fairmont State University Police Training Academy Friday afternoon.
Police Academy Director Jeff McCormick said the inaugural class is made up of 15 cadets from nine police agencies throughout the state who successfully completed the 16-week program.
“We told our cadets the first day they came in that there were a lot of eyes on Fairmont State University because this is a new academy,” McCormick said Thursday on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.” “But, really, it’s going to be these cadets that go out there and put what they’ve learned here to work that’s going to tell the tale.”
The program is part of the path to a four-year criminal justice or related degree and prepares cadets to be ready to work for local or state agencies. The classes are taught by a mix of law enforcement professionals and Fairmont State University faculty.
“The program was essentially designed for Fairmont State University students seeking a four-year degree,” McCormick said. “You come and spend a semester with us at the academy, and when you graduate, you not only have a four-year degree, but you are certified as a law enforcement officer in the State of West Virginia.”
McCormick said cadets are on campus from Sunday night to Friday evening for all 16 weeks, just like at the West Virginia Law Enforcement Academy. The training is highly-structured with each day starting with physical training and each hour thereafter filled with a mix of academics and practical exercises.
“They have breakfast, we have a full morning session of classes, they have lunch, then a full afternoon, they go to dinner, and then they come back in the evening, and we have more law enforcement training activities for them,” McCormick said. “So, they’re busy from sun up to well past sundown.”
The training is largely scenario-based and does not use exercise as punishment. The training includes traditional use of force topics but focuses more on the changing missions police are asked to perform today. McCormick added that data shows certified police officers with a four-year degree receive fewer complaints from the public.
“We talk about empathy, we talk about bias awareness, we talk about trauma awareness training, how to interact with folks that are facing mental challenges, and there’s a big focus on de-escalation techniques.”
The scenarios are geared to teaching self-reliance and expecting the unexpected. One scenario includes a role player posing as a deaf person facing away from the police. As the cadets approach, they have a very short period of time to properly assess the suspect and act accordingly, knowing backup could be several minutes away.
“Whether it’s a small department or a large department, police officers generally work on their own,” McCormick said. “When you see a police officer, he’s by himself in a police car; when a police officer pulls you over, he’s by himself; and when the first officer arrives on a scene, he’s by himself. So, we want officers that can think on their feet.”
The fifteen graduating cadets and the agencies that have sponsored them are:
Shane Bourne, Morgantown Police Department
Alexander Boyles, Morgantown Police Department
Gage Clark, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department
Jarrett Day, Charles Town Police Department
Seth Dickens, Beckley Police Department
Luke Flanagan, Kingwood Police Department
James Gmiter, West Virginia University Police Department
Trevor Kinnee, Beckley Police Department
Jeremy McGinnis, Beckley Police Department
Caleb Minger, Brooke County Sheriff’s Office
Michael Nickerson, Wellsburg Police Department
Kendel Ober, Marlinton Police Department
Christopher Smith, Berkeley County Sheriff’s Department
Jacob Stajnrajh, Morgantown Police Department
Nathan Taylor, Wellsburg Police Department
The next 16-week session begins Aug. 21. McCormick said he expects to have about 25 cadets.