Local Reserve Police Academy Hits Roadblock

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The local reserve police academy scheduled to begin in October has run into a few roadblocks, Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said.

Since many reserve officers have been hired by law enforcement agencies, the reserve corps has become depleted, prompting the department to explore starting another local academy. A lengthy hiring process began in the summer of 2002.

A lack of qualified candidates, financial issues, and changes at Gila Community College have put the academy on hold temporarily.

"We're struggling -- we have had several things affect us," Engler said. "Through the testing and background process, we've lost a considerable number of applicants and we are down to a total of nine between us and the Gila County Sheriff's Office. The academy was based on the financial figures based on 20 attending the academy. I have asked the college to provide me with a revised budget and work to see if there is a way that we could still go forward with it."

The other blow to the academy was the departure of Program Manager Pat Pezzelle, former police officer who was instrumental to the academy,

"Our contact person at the college, Pat Pezzelle, has accepted a job up in Montana," Engler said. "He was going to be the coordinator for the academy. We are still interested in it and pursuing it here in Payson. We have to make some financial decisions on ways we might go about it."

Applicants selected for the reserves who are not certified must complete an academy for law enforcement certification by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training board within two years of their appointment.

The local academy, which was scheduled to begin Oct. 15 and run through July 2004, consisted of classes held two nights a week and an eight-hour block on Saturdays.

Engler said if they can increase the number of qualified individuals to about 20, a local academy could be feasible. However, the department would have to go through another hiring process.

"If we could get up to about 20, we think we can make it work," Engler said. "We've done it in the past in conjunction with the college -- but we have to make it financially feasible for everyone involved."

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