By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The region’s police save money and time and learn a thing or two at Tupelo’s North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center.
In the face of some questions within the city on the financial commitment to keep the center going, Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton said it’s “essential” to his force and to other agencies in Northeast Mississippi.
Opened in 1992, the center’s Police Academy has provided training and certification classes for departments throughout Northeast Mississippi, including the FBI. With a staff of nearly 30 training officers, the academy provides everything from firearms and explosives training to K-9 and defensive tactics strategies.
The fireman training academy also is located on the same grounds.
Cadets go through the academy’s 10-week basic training classes where they live on site in dormitories to gain certification to become full-time officers. Many of the city’s current officers are graduates of the Tupelo Police Academy.
Scott Speaks, the facility’s director, said it’s easy to see how it benefits each area department. However, he said the financial benefit to the city coffers is evident.
“The financial burden the city would have if we didn’t have our own academy would be very expensive,” said Speaks. “The academy doesn’t make a lot of money for the city but it saves a lot. We can provide all of our own in-service training right here in Tupelo and not have to pay for travel and other expenses.”
Speaks said if the department had to send its 123 full-time officers and 26 reserves to the training academy in Pearl for their 24 hours of mandatory yearly training it would cost the city more than $26,000 annually in training fees alone. It would cost another $16,013 per diem, $2,591 for fuel and $15,084 in lodging.
The department’s 15-man SWAT unit has to have eight hours of training a month, which would cost more than $3,000 to go to another academy. The K-9 unit and bomb squad members have 16 mandatory hours a month at a combined cost of $3,600 per month.
All of these potential costs are saved for the city because of the center.
Carleton said it would be difficult for the department to operate like it does now without the facility.
“For a department our size we have a fully functional bomb squad, K-9 unit, a reserve unit that we train ourselves with our own city-paid trainers, and we provide in-service training for all of our officers,” said Carleton. “Many of those things would not be possible if we had to send guys off to other places for their training.”
Speaks said having a training facility allows officers to train while working their normal shifts, which assures maximum coverage on the streets.
“If we had to send every officer somewhere else for their monthly training we’d be short men on the streets,” said Speaks. “But with the academy being here officers can come in a couple of hours on their shift and get back on the streets.”
Capt. Dennis Hopper with the Mississippi Department of Transportation said he uses Tupelo’s facility for a wide range of training.
“We send our new officers there, we use them to get officers qualified with firearms, we use them for various classroom training and several other types of training,” Hopper said. “Tupelo just has a full-service academy that benefits our whole area.”
Agencies using the academy pay $3,000 per cadet they send through and also pay fees for other services like using the firing range. Speaks said this money helps fund the academy but really isn’t designed to make a profit.
“Honestly, if the academy was ever shut down, the police department would be in chaos,” Speaks said. “There would be so many things we’d have to figure out that it would probably take years to recover.”
Other law enforcement training academies in
JACKSON Board on Law Enforcement Officer
Standards and Training
JACKSON William L. Skinner Training Academy
PEARL Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers
MOORHEAD Mississippi Delta Community College
Law Enforcement Training Academy