My name is Randy Shrewsberry and I am the Executive Director of The Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform. I’ve spent nearly three decades working in the justice system, first as a police officer and later a forensics investigator in the private sector.

Throughout my career, I had the opportunity to attend four basic training academies in three states. I started out as a police officer in Ohio and later moved to South Carolina.  When I inquired what additional training I might need to transfer my law enforcement credentials to South Carolina, I was shocked to learn that anyone can work there as a fully empowered law enforcement officer for up to a year without going through basic training.

Even more alarming, I discovered that there is a total of 23 states that allow officers to delay their basic training for, on average, one year. This means there can be new, untrained officers in your state, typically with full authority, who have never attended police basic training. Some states permit only a few months of delay, while others have ambiguous standards, such as requiring officers to take the “next available training.” However, almost all states with deferment policies allow for extensions beyond the first year. In some states delay extensions can last up to three years, meaning an officer is fully authorized to work for years without any formal training.

Oklahoma Police is one of those states, and permits officers to begin full employment with full authority up to 6 months before completing basic training.

The Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform was founded on the principle that current training programs must be improved, particularly to ensure that training is based on scientifically sound principles and that police are responsive to the concerns of policed communities. But, while we are working to improve the training, we must also make sure that every police officer is getting trained before they are given the authority to arrest, detain, commit or kill citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.

Despite the clear need for improved training, existing programs can offer valuable instruction.  Basic training is intended to provide officers with instruction on important skills such as guidance for interacting with diverse populations and individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and best practices for the conduct of traffic stops and vehicle pursuits. It is also meant to provide critical information for basic law enforcement functions, such as protocols for the collection and handling of evidence and guidelines for enforcing federal, state and local law. Law enforcement officers have too much power and responsibility to be performing their jobs without first learning these fundamental concepts and skills.

Please sign my petition asking Oklahoma Police to require police officers to be fully trained before they have full authority.