Every aspiring law enforcement officer in South Carolina has to go through the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, that trains officers for the field, before they become an officer. In a recent study, Academy Director Hubert Harrell says they noticed a concern they have among some of the officers coming to the academy.
“There was a problem with, not so much the material, but with the students. Our material is pretty much standard, the law is the law, and we started looking at why these guys weren’t passing. What it appeared to be was that they weren’t understanding the written material,” says Harrell.
Harrell breaks it down in numbers: “We had, on our first legals test, 25 percent failure rate. This was done in 2007-2008, 20 percent on proficiency, those are skill level stuff. The biggest thing was the legals, not understanding to be able to read them,” says Harrell.
Almost 20 percent of the prospective students could not ready above a 10th grade level. Harrell says for a student at the academy to become a successful officer, they need to have a certain level of education. The study makes these recommendations on what grade levels the students need to have to be successful, and what effective training needs to take place.
The percentage rates are even higher in smaller departments in the state. Nearly 34 percent of the failing candidates came from law enforcement agencies with 50 or fewer officers. Harrell explains why: “It’s their ability to pay. Let’s be realistic about it. Law enforcement officers are not the highest paid people in the state. Smaller agencies usually come from smaller communities, unless it’s a very affluent community, they are not able to offer a high enough salary to attract good recruits, or more educated or more knowledgeable recruits. They have to hire who they can afford to pay, and that’s the bottom line: you get what you pay for,” says Harrell.
As obvious as it may sound, Harrell says education plays a huge role in their field.
“Education is extremely important. When we stop and look at the evolution of law enforcement over the years, you will see the law enforcement officers are asked to do more and more and more. As technology advances, as the sophistication of our communities advance, so does the training of our law enforcement officers have to advance,” says Harrell.
Harrell says some of the larger law enforcements agencies in the state are even employing PHD’s to work in labs, and other officers have to training and experience in chemistry and physics. They are apt to adapt to the current economical and technological changes.
“Law enforcement, it use to be you could hire the biggest, strongest, toughest guy and that could be a good cop. Now, we are trying to hire the smartest people. You have to be aware of why things happen, and not so much how they happen,” says Harrell.