YUMA, Ariz. - A shortage of police officers is happening nationwide, but one local program is preparing the next wave of officers stepping up to the challenge.
Arizona Western College has recently celebrated it's very first graduating class from the Law Enforcement program.
The 20-week intensive training puts newly hired trainees right in the field. Within the first week the trainees hit the ground running.
10 students completed the entire program and are now working as police officers with agencies like Yuma Police Department (YPD), the Yuma County Sheriff's Office (YCSO), and the Cocopah Tribal Police Department
One of the visionaries for this program is retired Yuma Police Department Lt. Richard Colwell, who during our interview enthusiastically shared what made this program possible.
"We are putting on a top rate academy program," said Lt. Colwell. "And we'll do that because we have strong relationships with our local law enforcement."
Typically, a law enforcement agency in the region would send out their newly hired officers to other cities like Tucson or Phoenix to train their officers at a price tag of almost $13,000 - $14,000 per trainee.
Thru this, local agencies are now able to train new hires for a fraction of the price at about $3,000 to $4,000.
YCSO Public Information Officer Alfonso Zavala explained how the program-partnership with AWC works.
"This is a lot different from anything you've seen," said Zavala. "This is law enforcement agencies working with a community college to bring a whole career that at the end of the day they are now hired as full-time employees."
While the cost is a huge benefit for local agencies, those who accept the challenge and are local to Yuma County, having the opportunity to train for a career that most feel passionate about, and still remain close to home is a whole bargain.
"That's a positive thing because when you are sending someone to Tucson or Phoenix, there are different environments there, they are bigger cities and Yuma has their own culture down here," said Lt. Colwell. "When you have your instructors, and they work here and live here they know what goes on in this community."
The academy also offers over 12 hours of mental health training. This comes in response to the increasing number of suicide among those in law enforcement.