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The CDCR’s training trade-off doesn’t quite add up

Some good, patient people may be able to move training for the system into the 21st century — by the time the 21st century is over


AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

When I went to work for the CDCR, dinosaurs still roamed the earth. At that time, the Basic Officer Academy was three weeks, with one-third of that taken up with basic 832 training. There was also a one week, on-the-job orientation which you did before going to the academy.

In the time since, the academy has increased to 16 weeks, primarily due to successful pressure from CCPOA, the union that represents rank-and-file correctional officers in state civil service. It was not only good for the profession, but it justified the upward pressure on wages, which was quite successful. Professional peace officers will cost more than turnkeys, and should cost more.

The formerly great state of California is now a long distance behind the eight-ball on hiring. There is a great deal of overtime, much of it involuntary, within the system. The state is finally determined to start hiring again and a new academy class is going to start up at the end of July. It will be 12 weeks long, not 16.

This change will allow that state to run four academy classes per year rather than three. As the state hopes to hire 7,000 new correctional officers within the next three years, this is not an insignificant change. (The math still does not quite work out. The new program will increase the yearly maximum number of trainees from 792 to 1,056. That does not equal 7,000 in three years.) The state seems to believe that they can do the job of turning out adequate rookie cops in 12 weeks. Probably they can.

As a sweetener to CCPOA to get them to support the program (or maybe go along with the okeydokey, depending on how you look at it) the state is reactivating the C-POST (Correctional Peace Officer Standards and Training) program. One existed in the fairly recent past, but it pretty much rolled over and died due to being defunded during the Schwarzenegger administration.

In its original incarnation, the C-POST board had six members, three appointed by the department and three appointed by the governor personally. This amounted to six people appointed by the governor. In its new-and-improved incarnation, three of the seats on the board will be rank-and-file people. Provided those seats are filled by good people and not by empty suits and lapdogs, the new C-POST board may actually be able to do something useful for both the profession and the department. It will be work, but it may happen.

The CDCR has a bad case of the NIH (not invented here) syndrome and tends to be resistant to anything that they cannot view as internally generated (as are many bureaucracies). In addition many - in fact, most - of the people at the upper reaches of the department have never worn a uniform, never walked a tier and, in fact, don’t much like cops. Some good, patient people with support from CCPOA and maybe even the legislature may be able to move training for the system into the 21st century — by the time the 21st century is over.

Bob Walsh worked for 24 years with the California Department of Corrections at Deuel Vocational Institution located near Tracy, California. He retired in early 2005. Since then he has been taking classes, exercising his obsolete camera equipment, rusticating and writing for the PacoVilla web site which focuses on issues within what is now called the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCr) and within the union representing CDCr employees, the California Correctional Peace Officer’s Association (CCPOA).