Local leaders discuss need for new police academy in Eastern Kentucky

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) – State and local leaders gathered at the Bob Amos Overlook Events Center Tuesday to discuss a regional need for accessible law enforcement training.

For most of the local officers traveling to Richmond for their training, the wait time to be fully certified can be extensive.

According to Pikeville City Manager Philip Elswick, the Pikeville Police Department is currently well-staffed, but not immune to the issues that could arise with the current waiting game. He said if the department were to hire someone this week, it would be a long road to getting them certified.

“With the backlog, partially due to COVID, but not entirely, it would be the beginning of 2022 before we can put that person in the academy,” he said. “And 22 weeks before we get them back.”

On top of the time commitment is the consideration of how far the future officers have to travel, uprooting their lives during the process.

“The departments tell me that some people are probably turned off by the fact that they have to leave their family for 22 weeks to go to Richmond to live. And only be home on the weekends,” said Elswick.

And with a growing need for more officers in the area as many near retirement, officials believe every second counts. So, members of the Pikeville Police Department, Pike County Sheriff’s Office, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, and Prestonsburg Police Department joined state representatives in Pikeville to discuss the need, sharing the experiences of their respective departments.

The discussion had one proposed solution: Bringing a training academy to the mountains.

University of Pikeville President Dr. Burton Webb and Provost Dr. Lori Werth also attended the meeting Tuesday, taking the information into account as they explore the possibility of bringing a facility to Eastern Kentucky.

“If we had somewhere here in the mountains that they could go, to go during the day and go home at night to be with your family and have kind of a normal life, we believe that would attract more candidates,” Elswick said.

The discussion is currently just an idea, which is being workshopped between local and state law enforcement officials to decide what the exact need is and how UPIKE could help make it a reality if the creation of a new facility is feasible or advisable. And Elswick stressed that the idea is not about changing the current training program, but replicating it closer to home.

“Kentucky has some of the highest standards for police officers in the country. And we certainly want to maintain that,” he said. “But we have to have another avenue to find officers and to get them hired.”

If plans move forward, the idea will then need to be presented to state officials and law enforcement professionals to best decide what would work. However, those involved say that is a long-term project and nothing is in the works aside from sharing information and having conversations.

“There’s a number of hurdles we’ve gotta cross before we can get to that point. But we are working toward that. We’re hopeful that this will be a solution that comes to fruition at some point in the future,” Elswick said. “But it won’t be soon. It’s going to be a long process to get there and to meet all of the different requirements that a police academy would need.”

Copyright 2021 WYMT. All rights reserved.

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