On June 1, 1961, Governor Mark O. Hatfield signed House Bill 1590, creating the Advisory Board on Police Standards and Training to establish standards for the training and certification of city and county law enforcement officers. The Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association (OSSA) has played a significant role in the formation of this Board and has been an active stakeholder ever since.
In 1968, the federal Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act made the work of the Board even more important when it identified that there were no national standards in place for the training of law enforcement officers. As a result of this report, the Oregon Legislature worked with the Board and Oregon’s law enforcement organizations to pass legislation that required all city and county law enforcement officers to meet minimum state standards for training and certification. Over the years, the scope of the Board has grown as new law enforcement agencies, other than those with a city or county, were established.
The first “police academy” was located at the Oregon National Guard’s Camp Withycombe in Clackamas, Oregon. Years later it would relocate to the campus of Western Oregon University in Monmouth where it would remain until 2006. Today, all law enforcement officers in the state, regardless of the agency they work for or the color of their uniform, are trained at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem. This includes all sheriff ’s deputies, state troopers, and city, tribal and university police officers in Oregon. They are also held to the same set of state standards, established by the Board, regarding training, certification, and conduct.
Today the Board is known as the Board on Public Safety Standards and Training (BPSST). The Board sets the standards, and the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) enforces the standards and delivers the training. The Director of DPSST reports directly to both the Board and Governor. Today, the Department and Board serve more than 41,000 constituents. Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers serves as the Chair of the Board.
The mission of DPSST is to promote excellence in public safety by delivering quality training and developing and upholding professional standards for police, fire, corrections, parole and probation, and telecommunications personnel, in addition to licensing private security providers and private investigators in Oregon. DPSST also regulates and licenses polygraph examiners, determines sheriff candidates’ eligibility to run for office, and provides staffing for the Public Safety Memorial Fund. DPSST strives to provide resources and certification programs that public safety officers and local public safety organizations need to maintain the highest professional skill standards, stewardship, and service to Oregon’s communities and citizens.
In 1971 the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association and the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police worked with the Oregon Legislature to create a dedicated fund to pay for the work of BPSST, including Basic Training. A penalty assessment fee was established, to be levied against all fines and bail forfeitures in Oregon’s state and municipal courts. This Police Training Account would later be called the Criminal Fines and Assessment Account. This fund meant that those who committed crimes would help pay for Oregon’s law enforcement officers to be trained. This remains the primary funding source for DPSST, which means law enforcement sends their new hires to the Academy and covers their salaries and benefits, and DPSST covers the costs for training, including meals and lodging. In 2016 it cost the state approximately $620,000 to train a class of 40 law enforcement officers for 16 weeks. This cost includes meals and lodging at the Academy, all instructor costs, all student materials (books, ammunition, student uniforms, fuel and tires for training vehicles), and venue maintenance.
Oregonians should be very proud of the training provided by DPSST at its 235-acre campus, the Oregon Public Safety Academy which is located off of Aumsville Highway in Salem. The Academy was designed specifically to embrace a scenario-based training model which means recruits spend just as much time in handson training classes as they do in the classroom. More than 50% of the students’ training experience at the Academy is now in a hands-on and scenario-based training format. This builds on the concept that students retain more information by doing.
The first class to complete the Oregon Police Academy was in October of 1961 at Camp Withycombe. This class was two weeks in length and was presented by members of the Oregon State Police and FBI to city police officers and county sheriff ’s deputies. Large cities like Portland, Salem, Eugene, and Medford, along with the Oregon State Police, ran their own training academies for many years. Today, all city, county, tribal, university, and state law enforcement officers attend the same Basic Training Course. A newly-hired law enforcement officer attends a 16-week Basic Police Course at the Academy, and after successful completion, returns to their employing agency for up to six additional months to complete the Field Training Program under the watchful eye of a field training officer (FTO).
While much of this article has focused on law enforcement training, sheriff ’s office employees involved in corrections, parole and probation, and emergency communications also attend the Academy. A newly-hired county sheriff ’s deputy assigned to corrections will attend a six-week training class, a parole and probation deputy will attend five weeks of training and an additional week if they carry a firearm, and a communications deputy will attend a two-week training class and an additional three- day class specifically for emergency medical pre-arrival instructions.
DPSST has enjoyed a great partnership with OSSA for decades. DPSST hosts ongoing leadership and specialized training classes at the Academy, including OSSA’s Leadership Institute and various OSSA Search and Rescue classes. In addition to training conducted at the Academy, DPSST also has regional training coordinators who deliver perishable skills maintenance training and advanced classes around the state to approximately 10,000 students each year. Topics include active shooter, ethics, police legitimacy and transparency, building searches, vehicle stops, defensive tactics and dozens of others.
To ensure the needs of Oregon Sheriffs are being met, DPSST maintains ongoing communications with each sheriff, the OSSA Corrections Command Council, the OSSA Enforcement Command Council, and the OSSA Parole & Probation Command Council.
Here is an overview of the training venues:
equipment. Classrooms are set up with all the latest technology including mounted projectors, laptops, and other components that are easily accessible to instructors at a central control panel located at the front of each room.
Dormitories, located at the Academy, are set up to house a maximum of 350 students at any one time. Two students share each dorm room, and there is one restroom facility to every two rooms. Students each have a bed and storage area. There are desks, televisions and wireless internet access in every room. Common areas include student reception, a large computer lab, student lounge, laundry facilities, and workout room with aerobic and weightlifting equipment. Students also have access to a rigorous outdoor fitness trail.
Scenario Training – City Streets
One of the highlights of the Academy is a combination of training venues called “City Streets.” This area replicates a community and includes a number of streets, houses, professional buildings, a mock school building, and outdoor areas specifically constructed for scenario-based training. Students are dispatched to simulated, real-time calls and evaluated on a full range of scenario-based elements including problem-solving, communications, application of the law, ethics, survival skills, community policing and diversity.
As a part of the “City Streets” area, students will ‘respond’ to training calls inside the scenario building. The scenario building houses a full-sized city street with curbs and sidewalks. The street is flanked by building facades that represent businesses and residences found in any police agency’s jurisdiction. These facades are set up with furniture that realistically replicates business and residential settings and will give students a chance to respond to calls at a bank, a bar, an apartment with basement access or any other configuration that training staff members create. Only imagination limits what Academy staff can do with this space.
Students in Basic Corrections Training will also utilize the scenario building, as it has a correctional facility facade and equipment that allows for practice of safe suspect/inmate transportation and booking, as well as more tactical maneuvers like safe cell extraction. DPSST also has an agreement with the Marion County Sheriff ’s Office that allows students to practice corrections scenarios at the nearby Marion County Jail. Because the Scenario Building has a full exhaust fan system, it can also be “smoked up” for Fire Program search and rescue training.
Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVO)
The majority of a police officer’s time is spent on patrol in a vehicle. The 1.6-mile emergency vehicle operations course at the Academy allows officers to learn critical decision making and driving skills so they can do their work safely and professionally. The course is designed to replicate the various driving surfaces and conditions found across the state, including concrete and asphalt, curves, straightaways, city streets and country roads. Training focuses on officers’ ability to make sound decisions at both high and low speeds.
Firearms training is held in the Academy’s indoor range. The facility houses one 50-yard range and two 25-yard ranges that are each fully tactical from the 25-yard mark. This allows for target placement at any location downrange, as opposed to stationary/fixed targets used in the past. Targets can charge forward, run from side to side, pop-up, or be moved to any location in the range. Each range can accommodate 25 students at a time. Lighting is controlled by a dimming system, so students can gain experience in low-light, night-like circumstances. The building is designed to accommodate vehicles. The range is designated as a lead-free, “green” facility. Only DPSST-issued ammunition is allowed on the ranges, and all cleaning solvents and agents are environmentally friendly.
The survival skills building provides space for training in health, fitness, and defensive tactics, which will increase students’ ability to protect the communities they serve as well as themselves. This building includes a large fitness room, which students use to r un the Oregon Physical Abilities Test, three mat lined rooms for defensive tactics training, two computer-simulated use-of-force/decision-making training rooms that utilize the MILO system, and two scenario-based, use-of-force/decision making training rooms for Confrontational Simulations.
Confrontational Simulations place students, instructors and role players in protective equipment and real-time scenarios. Students gain experience in a variety of controlled incidents ranging from domestic violence disturbances to calls involving people in crisis, to altercations that involve deadly weapons. Students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom in a safe environment, gaining first-hand experience to draw from when they return to their home communities.
DPSST strives to provide resources and certification programs that public safety officers and local public safety organizations need.
Written by Eriks Gabliks, Director, Department of Public Safety Standards and Training