By Russ McQuaid
PLAINFIELD, Ind. (Aug. 25, 2014) - Inside a building that looks like a central Indiana high school, young police recruits are being taught skills in communication, psychology, hand-to-hand combat, high speed driving and firearms discipline.
The building is not the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Academy where dozens of recruits have been in training all summer to join the state's largest police force, but rather the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Plainfield.
"Anybody with full law enforcement powers, whether they be part-time or full-time paid police officers have to come through here," said Executive Director Rusty Goodpaster who oversees the training for officers who make up most of the 560 police agencies in the state of Indiana. "So anywhere from Gary to Evansville and everywhere in between and every size."
There are 15,000 police officers in Indiana. One out of every ten works at IMPD. Indianapolis and Fort Wayne and Indiana State Police are virtually alone in operating their own full-time academies, so when a veteran officer in Hobart or Seymour or Gas City calls it quits, that department must hire a replacement and send him or her to the Plainfield campus of ILEA.
Three times a year classes of 90-120 police recruits graduate to return home to their sponsoring agency and undergo even more training. ILEA teaches a 600-hour/15-week basic course. IMPD, by contrast, puts recruits through 1,830 hours of training while the State Police has a 929-hour course.
"Small towns may not have all the resources that others do but their job is just as important," said Goodpaster. "It is a very difficult task."
Jim Fish's grandfathers were both state troopers. That encouraged the LaPorte County man to leave his farm and pregnant wife behind to attend ILEA training and return to his hometown to keep the peace.
"They need good people to stand for what's right and do all the right things and be a part of the community," he said. "Just to say, 'Hi,' to people and teach the younger people right from wrong and be a good face...and that goes back to talking to these kids and letting them know that police are good people and we all have homes and we all have families and we're just like you. We're here to protect you when needed."
Samuel Fry spent six years working with juvenile offenders to be just two of the 33 applicants hired by the Logansport Police Department.
"We've been learning how to deal with people with different disabilities, mental disorders, sicknesses, how to work with fire department, EMS, give support, kind of learning we're doing a lot more than just arresting people," said Fry. "We take our jobs extremely seriously. We are trained in all aspects from the criminal law to the physical tactics to the driving to firearms. We're just being jammed with knowledge and the training doesn't stop here.
"I'm currently 28 and I've got another 20 or 30 years looking forward to working for my city," he said. "I'm here to serve the community."
ILEA experiences a washout rate of roughly ten percent, slightly more than the IMPD academy which has already placed some of its veteran recruits into patrol cars on the streets this summer.