Kelso and Woodland OK Resolutions Supporting Southwest Washington Law Enforcement Training Campus

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Towns in Cowlitz County are supporting a state proposal to create a law enforcement training campus in southwest Washington so new officers can train closer to home.

Woodland City Council approved a support measure at its Monday meeting and Kelso City Council approved a similar measure on Tuesday. Longview City Council is due to vote on a comparable resolution at its Thursday meeting.

In early September, the Kalama City Council approved a letter to two state legislators supporting the new academy.

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Gov. Jay Inslee announced a proposal in July to create four new training sites for law enforcement officers, including one in southwest Washington.

The two existing Basic Law Enforcement Academy locations are in Burien and Spokane, the closest of which is a two-hour drive from Longview. New police recruits spend nearly five months studying at the basic academy before training with the department that hired them.

“Right now all new officers are away from their families for an extended period of time, for the duration of the academy and only coming home on the weekends,” said Woodland Police Chief Jim Kelly.

The almost word-for-word identical resolutions passed at Woodland and Kelso indicate that the closer training would make it easier for the departments to recruit local cadets. Easier, local hiring could help address an upcoming spike in retirements or quits that several departments said they expect to see, according to the resolutions.

Kelly said closer training centers would also save many agencies money. Officers-in-training are already employed by local departments, so at least some of the training and transportation costs are covered by the department.

The state’s proposal suggested the new locations would be in Vancouver, Bellingham, Everett and Pasco. Kelso Police Chief Darr Kirk said at Tuesday’s city council meeting that he and other law enforcement officials in the area hoped for a facility between Ridgefield and Kalama. Kelly agreed that a local option is preferred.

“We would love to have it here, but the closer the better,” Kelly said.

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