At the Region is an ongoing feature that discusses the state-by-state training, certification, and employment requirements of first responder departments across the nation. In this issue, At the Region looks at law enforcement requirements in Region VIII: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado.
FEMA Region VIII - Law Enforcement Officers (LEO)
Law enforcement includes an extremely diverse range of agencies dedicated to promoting safety and public order through the application of national and regional laws and regulations. The variation of laws and penalties nationally and internationally necessitates region-specific training and specialization, while at the same time, officers must be familiar with overarching legislation and judicial decisions governing procedure and jurisdictional reach. This applies to agencies at the federal, state, county, and municipal levels, all of whom serve and protect their constituency in a dangerous field that exists within a complex and challenging framework.
The Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (POST) under the Colorado Attorney General manages the certification of all peace officers and reserve officers in the state. Prior to certification, all applicants must undergo a fingerprint/background investigation, pass physical and psychological exams, and attend a basic academy. The Board also requires that applicants hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and be first aid/CPR certified. In addition to meeting certification standards, hiring agencies generally have additional requirements, such as an interview process, entry examination, and review of driving records.
Applicants may attend a basic academy either post-hire through their department, or through an independent program. A full list of POST approved academies may be found here; programs listed as “Agency” require that attendees be hired by the hosting or other approved department prior to attendance. Community college programs have a separate application process, and are paid for by the applicant. Following the completion of the academy, applicants must pass the POST Certification Exam; the test costs $125, and registration information is available on the POST website. Certification remains active for three years after employment has ended, or indefinitely as a Reserve Officer. A list of agencies and openings is available here.
Colorado offers reciprocity through a provisional certification process, which can be transitioned to a full basic certification by “Test-Out” or a refresher academy. In order to be eligible for provisional certification, an applicant must:
• Order a Provisional Application Packet
• Provide proof of out-of-state certification or licensing
• Complete and submit a form
• Become CPR/First Aid certified
• Provide proof of a high school diploma/GED
• Complete a background check
• Possess a Colorado Driver’s License or alternate prior to beginning work
Once these requirements have been met, an officer who has been employed within six months of the application will be issued a provisional license, and will have six months to complete the written and skills testing. Applicants who have not been employed in law enforcement within the previous six months will need to pass the written examination prior to receiving the provisional license. After the provisional certification has been issued, officers who choose to use the Test-Out option will undergo a two-day POST examination involving firearms qualification, driving, arrest control, and a written examination. Each section costs $125, for a total of $500, and fees may be made by check or money order to POST. Applicants taking the refresher academy will attend a two- or three-week program at one of the approved training facilities, followed by a written examination. Once either of these options has been completed, an applicant will be issued a basic certification.
The Public Safety Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) under the state Department of Justice sets training standards and issues certification/recertification for all public safety officers in Montana. Individual agencies may set requirements that exceed those of the POST Council (for example, State Troopers must meet additional corrected/uncorrected vision requirements); however, many agencies use the standards as provided.
At a minimum, applicants must:
• Be 18 years of age
• Be a US Citizen
• Possess a high school diploma or equivalent
• Pass a fingerprint/background investigation and be of sound moral character
• Undergo a medical exam by a physician appointed by the hiring agency
• Complete the Basic Course at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy (MLEA) within one year from the date of appointment
Most agencies also administer a test to applicants, and recruits are selected from a pool of qualified candidates.
The Montana Law Enforcement Academy provides an intensive 12-week training course to all state, county, and city law enforcement officers; correction officers; detention officers; juvenile detention officers; motor carrier service officers; and public safety communicators. The Basic Academy is held three times a year; the schedule through 2015 may be found here, and application forms may be downloaded on their website. An applicant will be certified by POST after the completion of the academy and one year’s service as an officer.
Montana also allows qualified applicants to attend the MLEA Basic Course through a Pre-Service Program prior to being hired by a department; however, applicants must pay for the academy out of pocket. The total cost of the program, including tuition, meals, equipment, and an acceptance deposit, is $4,100, and grants and scholarships may be used when available. Applicants must submit a form, pass the three-part POST written examination, complete the Montana Physical Abilities Test (MPAT), and undergo an interview process prior to acceptance.
Montana POST provides regulations for certifying out-of-state applicants. To be eligible, applicants must have:
• Completed an equivalent academy in another state, and have training records approved by POST
• Served at least one year as a law enforcement officer
• Demonstrated no break in service exceeding five years from the date of hire in Montana.
Once POST has approved all training records, applicants must complete the Legal Equivalency Basic Course, offered through the MLEA, which consists of an orientation, classroom training, firearms qualifications, and a final exam. The course is offered three times per year, and contact/reservation information is available here. The Equivalency Course must be completed within the first year of appointment as a Montana peace officer. Applicants may apply for certification following their one year probationary period with a Montana department.
All part-time and full-time paid members of law enforcement in North Dakota must be licensed by the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board. Individual departments may set standards that exceed State requirements, but for training and licensing purposes, an applicant must:
• Be a US citizen or resident alien
• Have a high school diploma or equivalent
• Be able to pass a finger print/background check
• Pass a medical and psychiatric exam.
Once an eligible applicant has been hired by a department, they will be issued a temporary “limited peace officer license,” which will allow the new hire to perform basic officer duties. In order to receive this license, the applicant must meet written and practical firearms qualification standards and submit a Peace Officer Application for License and fee to the POST Board. The hiring agency will also file a New Employment Peace Officer Form and License Eligibility Form to POST prior to the applicant’s first day of employment.
To transition from a limited to full license, officers must complete the first available basic training session at the Law Enforcement Training Academy (LETA) in Bismarck. For enrollment information and housing (if required), contact LETA at (701) 328-9966, or email email@example.com. A schedule of upcoming trainings may be found on the Academy website. Once the Academy has been completed, the officer must submit a fee of $25 to take the North Dakota Peace Officer Licensing Examination, and pass with a score of 70% or higher. The officer will then receive a license certificate and card. Officers must qualify annually with their firearm, and renew the license every three years by completing 60 hours of continuing education and submitting an application along with a $45 renewal fee.
Officers transferring to North Dakota may receive a partial waiver of basic training if they are currently licensed or certified in another state, and have at least one year of experience as a peace officer.
In order to receive the waiver, applicants must:
• Be hired by a North Dakota law enforcement agency
• Submit documentation of status, employment, and education to POST, along with a letter sent from the hiring department; POST will evaluate the officer’s training for equivalence
• Attend a two week training at LETA, including North Dakota traffic and criminal laws, and pass an Academy examination
• Pass the North Dakota Peace Officer Licensing Examination with a score of 70% or higher.
Applicants who do not pass the Licensing Examination will be required to take the full basic training course at LETA. If the exam is successfully completed, applicants will receive a license card and certificate.
South Dakota’s Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Training Commission under the Division of Criminal Investigation oversees law enforcement education and certification. Individual departments may set higher requirements, but all applicants for certification must meet minimum standards:
• US citizenship
• Minimum age of 21
• High school diploma or equivalent
• Good moral character, and ability to pass a background investigation
• Has not unlawfully used any drug or substance within one year of application
• Ability to pass a medical examination
• Complete an in-person interview by the hiring agency
• Take the oath of office before a judge of a court of record.
Applicants who meet these standards and have been hired by a South Dakota department must become certified through Law Enforcement Training’s Basic Certification Course within their first year of employment. This 520-hour course is hosted three to four times per year at the George S. Mickelson Criminal Justice Center in Pierre. The calendar of upcoming basic courses may be found here, and the application form is available on their website. Directions, an academy overview, and guidelines are also available. Officers who attend will be required to demonstrate proficiency in firearms, emergency vehicle operations, use of force, and defensive tactics.
Reciprocal certification in South Dakota may be granted to officers who have received equivalent basic training in another state if the training was received within two years of application, or if the applicant has been continuously employed in law enforcement following the training. The Reciprocity Checklist includes all items to be submitted with the application. Officers whose training has been deemed equivalent must pass a written examination consisting of 400 true/false and multiple choice questions; the exam should take two to six hours, and students will be provided with a Hazardous Materials Guide, accident formulas, a calculator, and South Dakota Criminal and Traffic Laws Manual. After completing the exam, applicants must complete training and evaluation including domestic violence, criminal law, traffic law, and legal instruction, and a demonstration of firearm and emergency vehicle operation skills.
The Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) under the Department of Public Safety oversees the training and certification process in Utah. In addition to standards put in place by individual departments, State code requires that officers:
• Are US citizens
• Are at least 21 years old
• Are able to pass a background check, and any prior history is deemed acceptable according to guidelines provided here
• Hold a high school diploma or equivalent
• Demonstrate good moral character and be free from any mental or physical condition that would interfere with the performance of duties.
Applicants meeting these requirements must complete a basic training in order to obtain certification. These trainings are offered through two programs: the POST academy, which is open only to recruits who have been hired by a department, and Satellite Academies, which primarily serve applicants who have not yet been hired (with the exception of the Fred House Academy, which is only open to corrections officers). In addition to employment with a law enforcement agency, the POST academy requires that applicants pass an Entrance Exam; the exams are held at several sites around the state, and dates, locations, and hours may be found here. POST conducts six basic trainings every year, and classes are five days per week, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., plus night training. The program is conducted over the course of fifteen weeks, with five weeks of Special Function and ten weeks of Law Enforcement training. POST application instructions are available here, and additional requirements, such as physical fitness standards are available on their site.
Applicants attending one of the six Satellite Academies must pay for the program out of pocket; fees and entrance requirements vary based on the program. Classes are generally held in the evening and weekend hours, and follow a standard semester format. Students graduating from a Satellite program receive equivalent State certification status as a Utah Peace Officer. POST maintains a list of active employment opportunities here.
Reciprocity is offered to peace officers certified in other states through a waiver exam. For information about the exam, including application packet, study guide, dates and locations, call POST In-Service at (801) 256-2315.
The Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) sets employment, certification, and training standards; maintains basic and continuing education training records; and enforces certification/recertification standards in Wyoming.
State standards require that a peace or detention officer:
• Is a US citizen
• Is of adult age (interpretation may vary by department, but an age of 18 or 21 is typical)
• Passes a fingerprint/background, credit, driving record, and previous employment investigation
• Holds a high school diploma or equivalent
• Is of good moral character and free of any physical, emotional, or mental condition that may adversely impact the ability to complete job duties, as determined by a psychologist or psychiatrist
• Completes an oral interview
• Has an Employment Form submitted to the state by their agency of hire within fifteen days of appointment.
Many hiring agencies and the pre-service academy also require that applicants complete the pre-employment written exam administered by Wyoming POST. The examination is generally offered Monday through Friday at 9:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. by appointment only, and applicants should contact Liz Ambers at the POST office to schedule a session (307) 777 - 6790, firstname.lastname@example.org). The exam costs $35, payable in cash, and there is no waiting period or limit to the number of times an applicant may attempt to pass. A list of state law enforcement agencies and their contact information may be found here.
Once hired by a department, recruits are required to complete a Commission-approved basic training course within one year of appointment. Most agencies train through the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy (WLEA), though independent department training facilities may also be certified. The Academy offers three Basic Courses each year, and training dates, applications, and physical fitness standards are available on their website (minimum fitness standards must be met prior to acceptance into the academy). The Basic Certification issued by the state is valid for two years, after which officers must recertify through an Advanced Certification; this requires 80 hours of additional Commission-approved training and a minimum of one full year of employment.
Applicants may also complete the Wyoming Academy through the self-sponsored Pre-Service program prior to being hired by a department. Tuition and fees for the Basic Course are $4175, and a non-refundable fee of $400 is required at the time of application. Applicants must meet all guidelines for law enforcement officers, and pass the Wyoming POST exam with a score of 70% or higher. Once the application and fee have been received, applicants undergo two day of testing, including a physical fitness exam, written and oral psychological evaluation, and written remedial test in basic math, English, and reading comprehension. Additional information and requirements are available in the Pre-Service Information Guide.
Wyoming has a standard procedure in place for certifying out-of-state officers who meet POST requirements for employment, have completed a basic course that meets Commission standards for equivalence, and have been out of law enforcement for less than five years. Applicants who have been out of law enforcement more than five years but less than ten, and had been employed in law enforcement for a minimum of five continuous years, are eligible to attend the “mini peace officer basic” rather than full Basic Course at WLEA.
To complete certification, qualified applicants must:
• Pass a challenge examination within the first two attempts
• Complete the Wyoming Criminal Law and Procedures course offered by WLEA
• Complete a Commission-approved domestic violence course
• Pass the WLEA firearms qualification course
• Possess a current CPR certification.
Once an applicant has been hired by a Wyoming agency, the agency will submit an Employment Form to the Commission within 15 days of the appointment