Training and continued education are central to success in public safety

Over the next few years, career fields in public safety — police officer, private security, corrections officer, emergency medical technician (EMT), firefighter, paramedic, 911 dispatcher and others — are expected to grow their demand for qualified candidates. This increase in demand has brought with it a greater emphasis on training.

“This is a period of time in the U.S. in which we have put greater value on our safety,” says Clayton A. Harris, chief of police at Cuyahoga Community College and dean of the college’s Public Safety Center of Excellence. “When the country went through the financial crisis, in many cases security services were among the first to be cut. That’s not the case anymore. Security is considered a necessity, and that has organizations reconsidering how that department functions as a part of the whole.”

He says there is a demand for well-trained security professionals who are capable of employing the latest techniques and technology as organizations look to offset attrition related to the aging workforce.

“There is a constant need to replace outgoing people,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Harris about what public safety candidates and working professionals need in order to be successful.

What kind of training is needed to pursue a career in public safety?

Those interested in a career in public safety need to prepare to take the requisite state examinations. The Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission creates criteria to become a certified officer in the state.

Generally, candidates need their high school diploma, which is a prerequisite to enter into the required academies. In addition, candidates must pass a background check and a physical agility test. Once those are passed, candidates attend a police academy, which can be run by different agencies. Large cities typically have their own academy; community colleges also have a basic police academy. An academy takes students through more than 600 hours of training that should prepare them to pass the state examinations.

With other career trajectories, such as corrections officer, the candidate must be employed by a county, which has its own corrections academy or contracts with an agency like Tri-C to run an academy on its behalf. Once a person has been hired and sworn in as a corrections officer, he or she will undertake an additional 200 hours of training and take the certification test.

Security guards have a 140-hour basic training program that, once completed, sets them up to take the state exam. The criteria for firefighters, paramedics and EMTs are similar in that there is a training academy that prepares candidates for the state exam.

How can those currently working in public safety keep their skills current?

Staying current is essential for people working in the public safety field. That’s easier nowadays because there is a great deal of information available on the web. Large groups, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the U.S. Department of Justice, for example, make research available that covers trends, equipment and more. In addition, there are many public safety publications and websites, professional associations, and local, state and regional organizations that help professionals in the field stay up to date.

How has technology impacted training and tools used on the job?

In order to be effective in the public safety field, candidates and professionals must take advantage of the latest tools and technology, much of which requires training to use correctly and be successful. For example, the technology that has made body-worn cameras possible has improved exponentially, as has the technology around the design and use of bulletproof vests, improving their capability to stop certain munitions. Technology has also impacted investigative techniques and the equipment used to investigate crimes. Police need to be aware of these changes and remain up-to-speed enough to employ them.

When I hire an officer, he or she must be able to show competence when using the latest technology or it’s hard for me to build that person up to someone who can be effective in the field. It’s critical that candidates are exposed to the latest technology and gain some knowledge on how to deploy it effectively.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College