COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy trains more than 1200 law enforcement officers each year, but after closing for seven weeks in March due to COVID-19 that number may change.
When closing in March due to the shutdown of educational institutions, classes that were in session became delayed and other class start dates were pushed back.
“We had four classes in different phases of their time here, so we sent them all home,” said Director Jackie Swindler.
The academy has now started accepting new recruits again, but many changes have been made.
Director Swindler said, “You have a room and a bathroom and then a suite mate, that is your defensive tactic partner not only is that your suite mate but that is the same person you’ll be doing your defensive training with, handcuffing and that stuff.”
Many law enforcement departments across the state put a freeze on hiring due to COVID-19, but the SC Highway Patrol has instead changed its hiring and training process.
“We’re going to keep hiring, but hire in increments and train them in increments,” said Captain Tara Craig of SC Highway Patrol. “Prior to the academy we’re going to let them go in the field and assist the officers.”
A new training process put in place last year at the Criminal Justice Academy and hiring freezes have helped the academy avoid a significant backlog. The uncertainty of the pandemic has caused the academy to accept fewer recruits at a time and for departments to do more in-house training.
Captain Craig said, “We continued the online portion and for the practical portion what we did is they usually come to us for firearms and tactical training, but we went to them in the field and did the training in small groups.”
The Criminal Justice Academy restarted its training classes last week in Columbia.
The director says the academy’s closure caused three training classes to be cancelled temporarily, which equals about 120 recruits.
Before the new classes started last week, those training classes that were in progress when the governor closed schools were brought back one at a time starting at the beginning of May.