By Daniel Yanez
The Northeast Texas Community College Police Academy will close its doors to students in the fall 2017 semester. Northeast President Dr. Brad Johnson said NTCC will turn its home-based program over to Kilgore College. Instruction for the program will be offered by Kilgore while Northeast furnishes the facility.
Johnson said the transition will occur June 1. At the moment, entire details on the agreement have still not been announced. The understanding has been approved by both presidents and is expected to be officially signed sometime soon. Although Kilgore College will offer cadet certification instruction on campus, Northeast will continue to offer a criminal justice associate degree to students.
The closure of the Police Academy program, which began in 1993, is comparable to that of the Dental Hygiene program that was closed in 2013. Johnson said program closures like these are always an emotional decision.
“Any program closure is difficult, this one was similar to dental hygiene in that in both cases, the college has interacted a lot with these programs,” said Johnson. “Our police academy faculty has helped us in other ways besides just teaching their classes, they’ve been active parts of our campus family. The cadets have helped us with events and other things on campus. It’s a decision you know affects people you care about, and that’s hard.”
While the particulars of the agreement have not yet been released, Johnson said Kilgore College will continue to offer a day and night academy on the NTCC campus that will allow students to become certified.
“I think the best way to describe what is happening with our police academy would be to say we are transitioning from a home-based program to a collaborative program,” said Johnson.
“Under the agreement, a day academy and night academy will be delivered annually. Our local students will continue to have the opportunity to become licensed peace officers through a locally available program.”
Johnson said several efforts have been made in previous years to try to revamp the NTCC Police Academy, but the program has not been able to reach the potential the college was hoping for.
“A number of years ago we opened our police academy. We opened it with the intention of serving the northeast quarter of the I-30 corridor,” said Johnson. “We’ve never been able to fully reach that quarter. For eight years that has been our top priority to try to expand our reach.”
Johnson also said compensation for those services being offered has to be fairly met by the educational experience. He added that the law enforcement field is an extremely competitive community and the standards for that area of curriculum must be set high.
“If you want to be able to consistently improve your program, you need to become well equipped and you need to be able to set the number of classes and the class size based on what’s ideal for the educational experience,” said Johnson. “If you can’t get to that level, then you’re going to have to compromise somewhere. Ether you compromise on how well equipped you are or you compromise on how picky you are on who you admit to the program.”
Richard Jones, director of the NTCC police academy, spoke about his appreciation for the chance to work with the many cadets that went through the police academy. Jones said he is disappointed to see the police academy close, but stands by the legacy that he and fellow instructor Leonard Newman will be leaving. He said the program boasts FBI agents, Texas Rangers, DPS officers and local law enforcement officers throughout the area. He was proud of the 100 percent passing rate closing, Jones also talked about Newman and his contribution to the program’s success rate.
“I appreciate the opportunity I have had to train many cadets that are now peace officers. They’ve offered me an opportunity that I would normally not have had,” said Jones. “The agencies I’ve talked to who hire our people, take them through a field training course and say they can tell the difference between one of our cadets and one of the cadets from another academy.”
Despite the fact the Northeast Police Academy is closing, Johnson said it is still the goal of the college to give students the opportunity to study for criminal justice degree through NTCC and the option to become a certified peace officer through Kilgore.
“We will continue to offer the criminal justice associate degree which is really valuable for anybody that wants to go beyond and wants to become a sheriff or move to the highway patrol, they need a degree and they will continue to get those from NTCC,” said Johnson. “The East Texas Police Academy will offer a day and a night police academy each year. So our area of law enforcement is still going to have the opportunity to have graduates from this program that they can employ. That was really important to us, we wanted people to be able to get their training here and that will continue.”