February 29, 2012
By DAVID LEWIS | Ranger Reporter
The Panhandle Regional Law Enforcement Academy at Amarillo College offers students the training and hands-on experience necessary to become an officer in the state of Texas, further training for current officers and credit hours to count toward a criminal justice degree.
AC offers the Basic Peace Officer Academy. Classes are conducted on the West Campus, and practice drills and hands-on training take place on the East Campus.
This semester, two courses are being conducted at the academy. A full-time day course is running as roughly 24 students are on track to receive their certificates March 8, and 17 students are taking a part-time night class that began Jan. 17. They plan to graduate Aug. 23.
“The world is constantly becoming more and more violent, and we feel that annually, our training is improving as well to get officers ready and prepared for the danger that really is out there,” said Bryan Flatt, an academy instructor and a corporal for the Borger Police Department.
Toni Gray, director of the criminal justice department, said the academy is challenging and time-consuming. Daytime students attend classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and evening students attend from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
Gray said the percentage of students who attend the academy who graduate and go on to get jobs is high. She said the graduation rate easily is 90 percent and that those who go on to obtain jobs also is roughly 90 percent.
The success rate is evident in the number of local police officers who have attended AC’s academy, Gray said. Amarillo Police Department applicants are required to go through APD’s academy, but AC’s academy provides further training for officers and officers-in-training.
Flatt said many applicants to the program work with agencies and are in the program to receive the training necessary to become patrol officers.
Alex Chancia, coordinator of criminal justice programs and the Law Enforcement Academy, said students who graduate earn a certificate, equal to 24 hours of academic credit broken down into five courses. Those 24 hours can go toward a 66-hour criminal justice degree.
Gray said the certificate qualifies graduates to be a police officer in the state of Texas, while the degree makes them eligible for a promotion or employment in federal departments.
After completing the academy, students have three chances to pass the state test to become a police officer before they are required to retake the course.
Training in the program includes learning to use handcuffs and other equipment. Flatt said the students are put through various scenarios to learn how to react in certain situations.
Both Chancia and Flatt said the students go through rigorous training to receive their certificates. Flatt said that because of the importance of law enforcement to society, professionalism is one of his strongest points of emphasis in the academy.
“We have to understand that in this line of work, everything can change in a split second, and someone’s life could depend on it,” Flatt said.