Law enforcement officers in Missouri will need to meet additional annual training requirements beginning in 2017. While it will cost more in resources and manpower, it will result in better and more-efficient peace officers. That’s the conclusion of a couple of local law enforcement leaders.

Law enforcement officers in Missouri will need to meet additional annual training requirements beginning in 2017. While it will cost more in resources and manpower, it will result in better and more-efficient peace officers. That’s the conclusion of a couple of local law enforcement leaders.

Requirements
The Missouri Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission recently approved the standards following action last year by the state legislature and Gov. Jay Nixon.
“Now we have mandates where we have to attend legal studies, personal perspectives, technical studies, skill development and we’ve also got to attend some racial profiling classes,” said Chief David Kennedy of the Neosho Police Department. “Under the old POST requirements, we had three years to attain 48 hours in these respective areas.”
New requirements mandate each officer attain 24 hours of continuing law enforcement education each year, which increases the annual allotment for classes by 50 percent and adds four areas of focus: officer well-being, including mental health and awareness; impartial police practicing, including implicit bias recognition; handling persons with mental and cognitive impairment issues; and tactical training, to include de-escalation techniques, crisis management, critical thinking and social intelligence, according to Kennedy.

Burdens
“It means the officers will be off the streets more going to training,” said Capt. Richard Leavens of the Newton County Sheriff’s Department. “We have currently approximately 40 certified, licensed law enforcement officers working for Newton County.”
The deputies work in corrections, investigations, patrol and command staff, Leavens said.
“Under the old system, training would have been about 18 hours a year, so we’re looking at another eight hours a year in training,” Leavens calculated. “Over those 40 officers, that’s 320 hours minimum that officers will be in training rather than in the field.
“It increases the cost of training, but now the state is trying to work to mitigate some of that. I haven’t seen any solid plan on it yet. They’re looking at doing some different online training and things like that. Then the recordkeeping increases over that.”
In addition, Kennedy said, officers also undergo crime scene investigation training, self-defense and other outsourced training, which they sometimes may have to forgo to allow time and funding for the new mandates.
“That specialized training may come second to what we are being mandated here by the Department of Public Safety,” he said.
Local training
One upshot for additional requirements is that officers won’t have to go far to attain much of the new training.
“Neosho PD, Newton County, Missouri State Highway Patrol — we’ve met with Oren Barnes, the director (of the Criminal Justice Center) at Crowder College, talking about the needs and what we would like to see as far as the training classes – how many, how often – so we can ensure that we meet the minimum requirements for this mandated training,” Kennedy said.
“What we’re going to do is provide a lot of local training, and we’re going to try to use a lot of local training officers from the county, the city, the highway patrol,” Barnes said. “Instead of having to travel, they’ll be able to come here.
“Another thing that’s going to really help them is if I’ve got a Neosho officer here and something happens, he’s still here, he’s not over in Springfield or he’s not up in Kansas City or somewhere far away. He’s not going to get the credit for the hours he’s in training for, but he’s still here available for the city he is working for.”
With campuses in Nevada, Greenfield and elsewhere around the region, Barnes said, Crowder training can be conducted very near many peace officers in the area.
“We’re taking the training to them,” he said. “That’s not the case with all classes. Some of them they are still going to have to travel for that specialty training, but we’re going to have those core hours.”
Barnes expects to be able to provide from eight to 16 of the 24 hours of minimum training required for officers each year. By just getting under way with the program, he said, it will be tailored to meet the needs of local officers.
“They’re telling us what they want. We’re not telling them what we are going to give them,” he said. “Everything we do we are going to try to base it on what the community wants. So if they say, ‘Hey, we really need A, B and C training, we don’t need D and F,’ we’re going to do A, B and C. We’re not going to try to force something that they don’t want and they don’t feel that they need.”
In addition to utilizing Crowder, Leavens said, the sheriff’s department is working on contracts with Missouri Southern State University, while there are various seminars presented by law enforcement associations, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the State Emergency Management Agency and other agencies.
“Trying to find training that fits our department and our department’s needs can sometimes be difficult,” Leavens said. “It’s probably not as important for us to know how to take on a major terrorist attack. While that is possible here, we’re more likely to see something smaller.
“It doesn’t mean we don’t need to know anything about it, but it does mean we need to have a basis to work off it. It’s got to be tailored to what we are doing. You can get into a lot of things that don’t mean that much to us in a rural setting, and we look for that type of training.”

Benefits
“What it means for the public is the intention is for law enforcement to develop a better understanding of how to handle people with difficulties, mental problems, being more sensitive to racial differences and things like that,” Leavens said. “It continues to refresh the officer’s knowledge and brings in additional knowledge on specifically the areas required in the new training dealing with people with mental problems, dealing with people with physical problems, dealing with different races and cultures. There’s some things that we don’t think of in our culture as being derogatory or improper, but in other cultures it might be, so it can help with that type of interaction with law enforcement and the public.”
Leavens hopes the additional requirements will help officers process things a little differently as they work in the field and believes it is for the greater good.
“It certainly can’t hurt us,” he said. “Additional training, as long as we keep it in the right areas and keep it law-enforcement orientated, I think it’s a good thing. Any time you can better educate people as to what’s going on in their business and in their chosen profession, I don’t see where that can hurt us.”
While there are plusses and minuses, Leavens said the department overall will have better-trained officers.
“I think the training will be beneficial to every officer in the department,” Kennedy agreed.

Upgrades impetus
“All of this is post-Ferguson,” Leavens said. “There was a lot of things that came out of Ferguson and a lot of legislative activity over that.”
“It’s kind of a response to that, as well as everything else that is going on around the country today,” explained District 160 state Rep. Bill Reiboldt of Neosho. “Officers are shooting people, and some of them (victims) do not have weapons. They’re going to have to have additional training.”
Reiboldt anticipates future requirements that will mandate officers be equipped with body cameras to document their actions in the field.
“I think it is important that every effort is made to avoid any personal tragedies like we’ve had over the years,” he said. “I know it is going to be costly.”
Reiboldt agrees that additional training will be beneficial for officers, but noted that many of today’s problems stem from a lack of respect by members of the public for officers on duty.
“They have a tough job,” he said. “Just think of stopping a car, and some of them with their windows tinted, you don’t what you might encounter on those stops. I think we need to understand that and appreciate the law enforcement. We live in a country of laws and respect for those laws and the people who are in charge of carrying out the enforcement of those laws.”
“The rules put forward are the result of public meetings around the state with concerned citizens, rank-and-file officers, law enforcement leaders and training academy directors,” Lane Roberts, director of the state Department of Public Safety, said in a prepared statement. “They represent meaningful, achievable change that meets the governor’s charge benefiting the public and Missouri’s law enforcement officers. I believe these changes in the critical areas of tactical training, fair and impartial policing, interacting with people with mental health issues, and officer health and well-being will help make the people of our state safer and strengthen law enforcement.”