Anyone who has ever moved to a new home knows that moving can be a trying time, but it can also be a time to reorganize and make improvements.
The Otero Junior College Law Enforcement Training Academy (LETA) has recently experienced the challenges of making a move after re-locating to a vacant elementary school in La Junta. OJC and the East Otero School District worked together to move the Law Enforcement Training Academy into the vacant west end of the district’s East Elementary School, which provides the Academy with extra space dedicated to the program.
“The Academy is now under one roof and students can move from the instruction classroom to space in the mat room where they can immediately apply their training. Immediate application improves learning and students become better equipped to work on the street,” said Miner Blackford, Law Academy director.
The new site provides a single location for most of the Academy’s training. The only exceptions are for driving training, which is completed at the La Junta Airport, and live-weapons training, which is completed at the firing range.
At the East School location, a total of four rooms are in use: an office/storage room, a break room, a classroom and the training room, also referred to as the “mat room”. The training room, located in what used to be the building’s band room, is a spacious area which can be covered with mats for hands-on practice of defense and arrest techniques.
The new academy location allows for permanent mounting of the Ti Decisional Training Computer. The TDTC projects a training scenario onto the wall and the student uses a weapon apparatus with a laser attached. When the trigger is pulled, it projects a spot onto the screen.
The computer program “branches” into different training situations depending on the student’s action. If the student aims at the bank robber, the training progresses but if the student mistakes a bank robber for a mother trying to get help for a sick child, the training regresses to show the error and prevent that from happening again. The TDTC can project in 3-D to make the situation more realistic and improve learning.
“We are able to film our own scenarios and incorporate them into our training,” said Blackford. “This allows us to recreate real situations that have occurred and train for them.”
The TDTC also allows for virtual shooting range practice at varied distances without the need to go to the range. The academy has seen success in improving range accuracy and timing using this virtual practice.
OJC’s LETA specializes in training future rural law enforcement personnel. “While large law enforcement agencies are able to specialize, we focus on the law officer who is going to handle cases from the initial call to sending the perpetrator to corrections,” explained Blackford.
The Academy provides a centralized location for training for southeast Colorado law enforcement agencies. It allows the Academy to pull in a variety of instructors from a pool of 11 agencies and to tap into the range of training available to those organizations.
“Training is the most important tool the peace officer carries and that tool will become ineffective if not continually maintained and upgraded,” said Blackford.
According to Blackford, training at the academy is intense. “Cadets complete 40 semester hours of training in a single semester; with classes six days per week. While an academy is required to provide 540 hours of training, OJC’s academy provides 900 hours,” explained Blackford.
The OJC Academy maintains a supportive, family environment by avoiding rankings of students in the Academy. “This increases the cooperative nature of training. The family feel within the Academy’s new location is reinforced by the fact that students pitch in to maintain the cleanliness of the space with a rotating chore list,” said Blackford.
Started in 1991, this semester marks the 31st Academy at OJC. Over 300 students have graduated from the Academy.
While the environment has changed over the years, the strength of the program has persisted. As with most things in life, change brings opportunity for improvement. The Law Enforcement Training Academy at OJC has taken that opportunity and will continue to provide quality graduates to serve and protect Southeast Colorado and beyond.
For more information about the OJC Law Academy, contact Miner Blackford at (719) 384-6867.
Photo Caption: OJC’s Law Enforcement Training Academy (OCJ LETA) relocated to the old East Elementary School in La Junta in August 2012. Pictured are students from the fall Academy practicing crowd control formations in the open space behind the school.
Photo Caption: Students practice defensive techniques in the training room. The new location allows for immediate application of instruction.
Photo Caption: The OJC LETA Ti Decisional Training Computer, permanently mounted in the new Law Academy location, projects training scenarios onto to an interactive screen that records when a shot is fired and determines if the target was appropriate. The computer program “branches” into different training situations depending on the student’s action.