Police Training Center Can’t Handle Increased Recruits

Posted July 29, 2003 at 6:21pm

The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, used by 75 agencies including the Capitol Police, needs to improve its plans for dealing with the growing number of officers it trains, according to a report issued Friday by the General Accounting Office.

The report, which focused on FLETC’s primary campus in Glynco, Ga., but also examined its satellite areas in Artesia, N.M., Cheltenham, Md., and Charleston, S.C., concluded: “FLETC is facing considerable challenges in responding to the demand for training in a systematic manner.”

Officials at the federal training center, which is now funded through the Homeland Security Department, have acknowledged the strain in handling so many officers — the fiscal 2003 projection accounts for 49,000 officers to be trained and increases to 57,000 in fiscal 2004.

In addition to federal agencies, the Glynco training center provides space to state, local and international law enforcement organizations.

To cope with the influx of trainees, which began in the mid-1990s following the growth of the U.S. Border Patrol and then surged again following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, FLETC officials have used various programs, such as a six-day week, as temporary fixes.

“FLETC has been able to generally meet [law enforcement agencies’] needs for basic training (the training provided to new recruits) by, among other things, operating a 6-day schedule at the Glynco campus and deferring [agencies’] advanced classes (those provided to experienced personnel),” the report states.

Although FLETC data shows that student test scores have not declined significantly in connection with soaring enrollment, the report states that one executive agency complained the quality of training had suffered.

“[A] senior Justice [Department] official said that the strained capacity — and especially the need to train 6 days a week at Glynco — had resulted in higher attrition rates for trainees and fatigue, burnout, and low morale for instructors,” the report states. “In addition, according to this official, the quality of instruction, and thus that of the training received, had suffered.”

The crowded conditions have led some federal law-enforcement agencies, concerned by “the relevance, quality, and timeliness of training,” to consider creating independent facilities for basic training, the report states.

But some also praised the extended training week. One law enforcement agency, which was not identified in the report, asserts that its recruits finished basic training ahead of schedule because of the six-day week.

“Other [agencies] said that although their students and instructors were fatigued and stressed, the quality of the training was still good,” the report states.

In addition to stress on students, however, the training surge has also had an adverse effect on FLETC’s facilities, such as its firearms ranges, driving ranges, exercise facilities, dining hall, classrooms and dormitories.

The report suggests: “Continued use of these facilities at an accelerated rate without maintenance and renovation would likely lead to further deterioration and exacerbate capacity challenges.”

In an attempt to better utilize its existing facility, FLETC announced in June that it is considering relocating several of the 12 programs now held at its Glynco campus to the Artesia or Cheltenham facilities.

The Capitol Police are among those whose basic training could be relocated to a satellite facility, although a FLETC spokeswoman said Tuesday that no decision has been made yet.

Typically, Capitol Police officers spend eight to 10 weeks in basic police training, then move to the Cheltenham facility for an additional 10 weeks of agency-specific training.

The Cheltenham facility, a former naval base acquired by FLETC in 2001, is still under construction and is currently used by only a dozen agencies for limited training and classroom instruction.

According to the report, FLETC plans to use the Maryland facility as a driving and firearms re-qualification center for 61 Washington metropolitan area police agencies.

Another area that FLETC needs to review, according to the report, is its board of directors.

The report recommends Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge maintain the board, but that, along with law enforcement agencies, he should “review the board’s mission, roles and responsibilities, and functions and practices to better align them with prevailing standards of governance and internal and management control.”