The Somerset County Police Academy enjoys the reputation of being one of the finest training facilities in the State. This is a reputation that has been developed since the Academy was established in 1987 as a result of the need to ensure quality law enforcement training for police officers serving residents in the municipalities of Somerset County. The Academy has been certified by the New Jersey Police Training Commission (P.T.C.) since its inception.
Historically the academy has conducted one new basic course for police officers each year. In 2011, only are class will be offered. The Basic Course, which lasts approximately 24 weeks, is one the longest and most comprehensive of its kind in the state. This course is best described as a blend of military training and college academics. During the Basic Course, recruits are taught over 120 subjects, to include:Criminal Law, Police Uniform/Professionalism, Criminal Justice Systems, Arrest, Search &Seizure, Communications, Emergency Driving, Emergency Medical Training, Firearms, Self-Defense, Patrol Practices, Motor
Vehicle Laws, Accident Investigation, Criminal Investigation and Physical Fitness. Since its inception in 1987, 45 recruit classes totaling approximately 2,000 officers have successfully graduated from the Academy.
In 1999 the Academy became the first academy in the state to certify police recruits in the use of the defibrillator. The Academy was honored for this achievement by Somerset Medical Center. Also in 1999, the graduates of the basic police recruit program became the first recruits in the United States to become certified as Community Policing Officers. The Somerset County Police Academy redesigned the Basic Training Program to allow for this process and continues this certification with each graduate. The certification is built into the six month Basic Training Program at the Academy.
A "Capstone Project" is required for certification. A Capstone Project requires that officers meet with members of the community. Community members identify a problem, issue or concern in their community and the officers develop a strategic course of action using a problem-solving model.
The Somerset County Police Academy designed a unique method to facilitate the Capstone Project. Members of the community representing Religious Groups, Senior Citizen Centers, Civic groups, Community Outreach Centers, Educators and Minority Association members were invited to the Police Academy and assigned a three member team of police recruits. The members of the community, called "Community Facilitators," were interviewed by a designated recruit team. Team members are required to determine what concern a particular group has and then develop a course of action over the next four months of basic training.
Response from the community facilitators has been overwhelming. They now have an opportunity to become part of the basic training process of police officers. The academy makes every effort to match recruits from a specific community with a facilitator from that community. In addition, the Academy offers more than 150 continuing education classes each year for uniform patrol officers, corrections officers, detectives, and assistant prosecutor's. As a result of the diverse subject matter and high quality of instruction offered at the Academy, law enforcement officers from throughout the tri-state area have consistently sought admission to various programs.
The Police Academy provides training for private citizens of Somerset County in personal safety in addition to training for security personnel, and such community organizations as the Boy and Girl Scouts. The Academy also operates a "Police Youth Week" during the summer. As part of this program, high school students, receive an intense one-week training program modeled after the Academy's Basic Police Recruit Training Program.
In 1993, the Somerset County Police Academy was the first Academy in the State to offer citizens of Somerset County the opportunity to receive basic police training through a state approved Alternate Route Program. Acceptance into this program is highly competitive. Candidates who are selected are enrolled directly into the regular 24-week Basic Course for Police Officers. Application costs, admission expenses, tuition and other fees are paid by the alternate route candidate. Over the past 14 years the Somerset County Police Academy has successfully graduated and placed more than 400 individuals as a result of this program. The cost savings associated with this program to our municipalities is estimated at approximately $40,000 per officer, which constitutes a $16 million savings to taxpayers.
In 2000, the Police Academy program was relocated and integrated as an academic program at Raritan Valley Community College. As a result of the move to the College, Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Warren County residents and police departments are afforded the opportunity to participate in this initiative.
Also in 2000, the Academy began running basic training courses for county corrections officers. Since the initial class, the Academy has run two corrections classes annuals and trained over 400 corrections officers from various counties in New Jersey. In 2011, on,y one Basic Course for corrections officers will be offered.
From its beginning, the Somerset County Police Academy has developed a reputation as a leader in providing some of the most challenging, innovative and comprehensive law enforcement recruit and continuing education programs. As a testament to this reputation in July 2002, the Academy's Police Basic Training Program was featured nationally on Court Television. The program titled "the Elite" featured basic training at Somerset in a series that highlights the premier law enforcement agencies across the nation in their respective areas of expertise.
In 2003, "Spanish for Law Enforcement" and a Lifeguard Certification were implemented into the Police Recruit Training Program, as the Academy continues to provide new initiatives in developing the most Uniform/Professional officer possible.
In 2004, the Academy continued its regionalization efforts by joining in a collaborative partnership with Warren County Community College and the Warren County Law Enforcement community. In October 2004, Warren County Community College became an official satellite facility of the Somerset County Police Academy. Also in 2004, the Criminal Justice Institute was renamed the Regional Public Safety Institute at Raritan Valley. The vision is to provide quality training and education to all members of the public safety community.
In 2005 and 2006, our Continuing Education program saw unparalleled growth! Recognizing that one of our primary objectives is to provide our law enforcement agencies with training that is current and relevant, more than 50 new course titles have been added to our Continuing Education program in 2006 and 2007.
In 2008, Somerset County Police Academy was selected by the N.J. State Division of Parole to train new parole officers. Since then, Somerset has conducted 2 basic training classes for State parole officers, training over 50 new officers.
In 2009-10, The Police Academy purchased a state-of-the-art decision making/force simulator. This new training initiative should be operational to the Academy's service area in 2011.
The Academy's Mission Statement
The mission of the Academy is to provide a high quality educational environment to all those who attend the Academy. The underlying principle common to all programs offered at the Academy is the fact that the training, wherever possible, will have a hands-on or practical component.
Our experience has shown that hands-on training is the most appropriate method for effectuating a lasting transfer of learning for the student. It is the mission of our comprehensive basic training programs to foster the development of character, knowledge of what is right, and the courage and commitment to act accordingly. For our staff, instructors and graduates, "IT'S A MATTER OF PRIDE!"