SC Criminal Justice Academy makes changes amidst pandemic

Local News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Law enforcement departments across the state may have to wait a little longer to get recruits into the SC Criminal Justice Academy. That’s because the academy has had to make changes as a result of COVID-19.

In March, when Governor Henry McMaster closed educational institutions the order wasn’t just for K-12 schools and colleges and universities, it also included training academies.

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy trains more than 1200 law enforcement officers each year, but in March the coronavirus changed that.

“We had four classes in different phases of their time here so we sent them all home,” said Jackie Swindler, the director of SCCJA.

The academy closed for 7 weeks, which delayed classes already in progress and pushed back the start date for others.

The academy has started accepting new recruits again, but many changes have been made.

Director Swindler continued, “You have a room and a bathroom and then a suitemate. That is your defensive tactic partner. Not only is that your suitemate, but that is the same person you’ll be doing your defensive training with, handcuffing and those things.”

Many law enforcement departments across the state put a freeze on hiring because of COVID-19. But the SC Highway Patrol has instead changed its hiring and training process.

Captain Tara Craig explained, “We’re going to keep hiring, but hire in increments and train them in increments. Prior to the academy, we’re going to let them go in the field and assist the officers.”

A new training process put in place last year at SCCJA and hiring freezes have helped the academy avoid a significant backlog.

The uncertainty of the pandemic has caused the academy to accept fewer recruits at a time and for departments to do more in-house training.

Captain Craig added, “We continued the online portion and for the practical portion what we did is they usually come to us for firearms and tactical training, but we went to them in the field and did the training n small groups.”

SCCJA restarted its training classes at the beginning of July.

Director Swindler says the academy’s closure caused 3 training classes to be canceled temporarily, which is about 120 recruits.

Before the new classes started last week, those training classes that were in progress when the governor closed schools were brought back one at a time in May.

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