Legislation aiming to encourage teenagers to pursue law enforcement careers has been signed into law in Oklahoma.
According to McAlester News, House Bill 1026 will allow the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education (CareerTech) to partner with the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) in order to create more law enforcement and criminal justice programs for teenagers.
Author of the bill Rep. Rande Worthen (R-Lawton) and a former prosecutor believes that by exposing more teens to law enforcement, they will have more opportunities to consider the industry as a viable career path.
According to Worthen, the measure will allow teens aged from 16 to 19 to start accumulating CLEET training certification hours before they are eligible to sign up for the state’s CLEET police academy. He hopes that this will create incentives to join law enforcement, and will create a career pathway from a young age, especially now that communities are struggling to find qualified recruits.
“We need some really good, good solid people out there doing that job,” said Worthen.
He also noted that by allowing young people to gain credits in CLEET programs, they can finish training for the police academy faster. This way, sheriff’s departments in smaller communities could save time and money.
Currently, the majority of police officers are certified through the state’s CLEET program.
I don’t think anybody’s against the concept,” said Earl Morrison, CLEET’s assistant director. “It’s just we (have) got to do more research and planning to figure out exactly how it would work to benefit both the CareerTechs and the individuals that are coming out in that age group.”
Morrison noted that state law requires peace officers to be at least 21, so the new law may create a time gap between when teenagers accumulate their CareerTech credits and when they can become a certified peace officer.
Under the existing system, trainees must complete the entire 16-week CLEET academy to get certified, andcCompleting certain requirements ahead of time does not earn them credits. The new law may change this.
Morrison said that CLEET and CareerTech will have to sit down and work out what the new program will look like, but thinks that it may provide just a preparatory glance at law enforcement ahead of entry into a degree program or the basic training academy, rather than a fast-track or replacement to the traditional certification program.
“My guess is a lot of it’s going to have to do with resources and available resources to do the planning from the ground up moving forward. That’s the part that’s probably going to be very interesting on both sides,” Morrison said.
CareerTech’s state director Marcie Mack said in a statement that her program already offers “criminal justice pathways” at 19 technology centers across the state, but that the new law is intended to incorporate some CLEET credits.
“This new law will allow them to expand the program by offering some CLEET courses to high school students interested in a law enforcement career,” she said. “The goal is to better prepare future cadets for the CLEET academy.”