Over the past 15 years collaboration between police, fire departments and community colleges to share or co-locate training centers has had hot and cold periods. In 1998 the Regional Public Safety Training Center Washoe County Nevada was a joint effort between multiple agencies including the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, City of Reno, City of Sparks, and Truckee Meadows Community College. In 2003 Luzerne Community College began work on a multi agency, Public Safety Training Institute. Universities also remain a strong partner with public safety training schools like the University of West Virginia State Fire Academy that was formed in 1974 and in 2003 undated its training facilities at Jackson’s Mill to accommodate increased demand.
Since the economic down turn of 2008 collaboration efforts has turned hot once again. In a recent national bench marking survey undertaking by IBG the “trend” of, merging public safety agencies and colleges has yielded significant improvement to training delivery, curriculum development teamwork, and more important open and cooperative communication between all groups.
In February 2012, IBG initiated a benchmarking effort to “validate the possible” by researching and identifying community colleges that excel in providing public safety training programs to not only their students but also provide training and/or training facilities to agencies within their regional. In order for a Community College to be selected for benchmarking it had to meet certain criteria. First, it must serve multiple disciplines within the public safety/public services fields (i.e. not just police and fire). Second, it must provide a wide range of training programs and curriculum that extend beyond the typical (i.e. shooting range, live fire training) public safety offerings. Third, it must be affiliated with a two-year or four-year college. IBG closely examined the physical attributes, partnerships and affiliations, programs and curriculums, and management practices of these exceptional training centers. Benchmarking Information Sheets were prepared for each one. The sheets provide insight in a quick read format into what is being done well and what could be improved or changed at these facilities. Based on experience and familiarity with training centers across the nation, IBG identified five of them that are nationally-recognized as training centers of excellence:
- Luzerne County Community College Public Safety Training Institute
- Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy
- Tarrant County College Public Safety Institute
- Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Complex
- Washoe County Regional Public Safety Training Center
Today many joint training center partnerships are underway or being formed. Most recently reported was the tentative agreement (details still being worked out) between Madison College and the Madison Fire Department in Madison WI. Other very successful partnerships between colleges and public agencies are reported at the Flatrock Training Center near Denver, Rouge Community College near Medford, OR provide both criminal justice and Emergency Fire Services curriculums that local agencies find very beneficial.
Community colleges play an integral role in public safety training – after all, their goal is to excel at education. Depending on the partnership structure, community colleges can provide something as simple as a steady stream of students or as complex as full management of training center operations. Increasingly, departments are partnering with community colleges. The result is that each benefits exponentially from the skills of the others. Partnerships also enhance both the numbers and the diversity of the student population. Some may be full-time college students, others working firefighters or law enforcement officers.
There are probably as many ways to structure partnerships between community colleges and public agencies as there are training centers in the country. In 2013 and for the foreseeable future partnerships will remain essential and will continue to grow. If a department is considering the development or modification of a training center a college the same partnerships should be at the top of any priority list.