Barry County Sheriff to phase in POST-licensed officers into jail
Certification provides advantages to county, ensures more training for officers
The Barry County Sheriff's Office is planning to soon place licensed officers in its jail, which will provide the county with more advantages because employees with these credentials will be able to provide services a non-certified jailers may not.
Currently, jailers are not required to have a license, but under the new plan, jailers would be officers licensed by the state through the Peace Officers Standards and Training program (POST) and Missouri Department of Public Safety.
"A lot of counties are doing this," said Mick Epperly, Barry County sheriff. "If something happens in jail, one of my officers can type up a probable cause, or transport prisoners back and forth. It has a lot more advantages. It's a lot more professional, too. Right now, we're just hiring civilians off the street and training them. There's a better way of doing that."
For all practical purposes, it would help save the county time and money because it would prevent pulling a licensed deputy from the road to carry out duties only a licensed officer can legally provide.
Epperly said implementing the idea will take time, and he is not planning on releasing current officers to replace them with POST-licensed employees. But, if someone resigns, he can replace that position with a licensed officer having those credentials.
An example, Epperly said, is hiring a candidate who graduates from the police academy straight into the jail. An officer who graduated from the academy would already be licensed by the state.
"I can place them right into the jail," he said. "A lot like to go to the road, but it's good experience for them to work the jail as well. Those are some of the advantages."
Compensation for jailers is another advantage.
"The jailers make approximately $23,000 a year when hired, but we could put them under the deputy sheriff's fund and get them to $29,000," Epperly said. "POST-licensed officers know a lot about law enforcement. Of course, they'll have to learn the whole jail system."
Aside from the practical advantages it provides and better compensation, Epperly said one of the reasons for phasing POST-licensed officers into the jail with these credentials are due to events in Ferguson, which prompted requests for deputies to have more training.
To become a licensed officer in the state of Missouri, a candidate must complete 600 hours of training.
"It takes about six months," Epperly said.
POST is a regulatory program tasked with licensing peace officers to ensure compliance with continuing education requirements, and investigates disciplinary issues.
In December 2015, acceptance of new training standards for Missouri law enforcement officers prompted questions about how the continuing education requirement changes would be implemented, and how officers would be affected.
Beginning Jan. 17, 2017, all peace officers licensed prior to Jan. 1, 2017, must obtain 24 hours of continuing education credit within calendar year 2017.
All peace officers licensed prior to Jan. 1, 2015, must obtain 48 hours of continuing education credit by Dec. 31, 2017, and 24 of those 48 hours must be earned within calendar year 2017.
Of the 24 hours of continuing education credit that must be earned in 2017, 16 of those hours may be obtained from in-service training that has submitted a course to POST for pre-approval, regardless of whether the officer is commissioned by the agency, and eight of those hours must come from a POST-licensed or a POST-approved provider.
"It's just makes it a more professional system," Epperly said. "I think it's a step up in the right direction. It's good for the county."
The Missouri Department of Public Safety disburses funds annually to Missouri law enforcement agencies for POST-continuing education training of licensed police officers.
In 2015, $1,167,000 was sent to law enforcement agencies from the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission Fund, which is generated through a $1 surcharge on all criminal court cases and municipal traffic charges.