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CLEET cuts hurting small police departments

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

MEDICINE PARK, OK (KSWO) - Budget cuts to the state's law enforcement training academy are taking huge tolls on small police departments across Oklahoma.

All full-time law enforcement officers who don't work for a department that does its own certification are required to go through a course by the Council for Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, at their center in Ada. But this year, the state legislature cut CLEET's budget by nearly $400 thousand. To make up for the shortfall, CLEET is no longer providing food for officers during their 18-week course, which means the various police departments must cover the cost.

The change in policy could cost each department thousands of dollars according to Medicine Park Police Chief Tom Adrahtas. He said they would have to pay $37 each day, with $20 of that going to CLEET for breakfast and lunch and the other $17 being a per-diem for dinner, which would cost the department $2131.20 per officer for the 6-week academy.

"We're also paying salary while they're there, we're also paying if we can provide a vehicle for them, we're still paying maintenance, wear and tear on the vehicle, we're paying for fuel,” Adrahtas said. “Otherwise we'll have to pay travel impacts if they're using their own car. So it’s a big, huge impact on the town, there's no way we can afford to send anyone to the full-time academy anymore."

Adrahtas said on top of making the departments pay for their own food, they are also requiring them to provide 1,000 rounds of ammunition for training, another thing they did not have to provide in the past. Because of that, his department is making a few changes to stay within budget.

"We're hiring reserve officers because it is little to no cost to the town,” Adrahtas said. “Instead of hiring one full-time guy, I've got four reserve officers about to go through the reserve officer training next month."

Adrahtas said the town should not worry because those reserve officers will receive the exact same training as a full-time officer but it will a few months longer.

"Once they graduate the reserve academy, the length of field training takes up to about 6 months where if it was a full-time officer it would take 6 weeks,” Adrahtas said.

Adrahtas said another great option would be allowing local officers to get their training at the Lawton Police Department, who has their own academy. But the state only allows that on a case-by-case basis and even then, they are forced to receive their field training in Lawton.

"Field training in Lawton is going to be a lot different than field training here,” Adrahtas said. “Our patrolling is different here than it is in Lawton."

Adrahtas said he understands that the budget cuts are not CLEET's fault and he has discussed possible solutions with them. But he says he reached out to every single senator in the state of Oklahoma about the issue and has not received a single response, which he says is frustrating.

Adrahtas said this will also impact his and other departments' ability to hire young police officers looking to start a career in law enforcement as they will no longer be able to afford to hire a full-time officer who is not CLEET certified already.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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