Brandon Stevens has a passion for law enforcement. He is currently in his third training course at the Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy in Newport News. First, he completed correctional officer training. Then, he finished a general instructor course. And now, he’s in the throes of officer training which, upon completion, will allow him to join the James City County Police Department.
“This is a good environment to learn in,” says Stevens, 24. “There is so much experience here.”
Stevens is one of thousands of people who are now graduates of the academy, located in City Center. The academy trains men and women who want to join the ranks of law enforcement. However, it’s not just police officers who come to the academy. There are classes for dispatchers, jail officers, sheriff’s deputies and marine resources officers.
“More than 51 agencies use us,” says Richard Collins, lead instructor. “Each year 3,000 students rotate through the building.”
The academy has been in existence since 1972. It has undergone many name changes and has moved several times. It opened at its current site on City Center Boulevard in August 2001. The building has four classrooms and a large multi-purpose space for training. As part of the academy’s training, students use the driving range at the Suffolk Executive Airport and the firing range at Fort Eustis.
The idea is that the academy educates students in all aspects of law enforcement, so that they are ready for any situation they may encounter once on the job. “It’s a good opportunity for personal and professional development and growth,” Collins says. “Chiefs use it for that.”
Many of the students come through the doors with very little experience. By the time they leave, they have been transformed.
“We’re often their introduction into the career they chose,” Collins says. “We take training very seriously here. We use as many resources as we can to get students where they need to be.”
When students begin the academy, they are called recruits. Upon graduation, they have earned the title of officer. “When they graduate, I make every effort to shake their hands and look into in their eyes and call them officers,” says Perry Bartels, assistant director of operations. “I congratulate them as an officer. It means a lot.”
Strong bonds are formed at the academy, and often graduates will come back to share advice, talk about their careers or ask questions. “We want them to see us as a place to come and get answers,” Bartels says.
Many of the recruits who come to the academy want to pursue law enforcement for a variety of reasons, including that it’s a career that runs in the family, they had a good experience with law enforcement or sometimes even that that want to show that “not all officers are bad,” Collins says. “We are always in search of the right people with the right motivation and the right attitude.”
Scott Barlow, executive director of the academy, says there is a lot of thought and effort put into the training. Consistency is key, he says.
“I’m very confident in the training we provide,” says Barlow, who retired from the Newport News police department in 2007 and took the helm of the academy in 2011. “We make sure they know the job. We give a good start so they can put it all together when they do their job.”
Stevens can vouch for the quality of the academy’s training. He has loved his training all three times. “It has been great,” he says. “I know that at the end, I’m going to feel confident and ready. I am trying to absorb as much as I can.”
TO TE POINT:
Hampton Road Criminal Justice Training Academy
Address: 805 City Center Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Scott Barlow, executive director