Sheriff hopefuls differ on training priorities
New state requirements to change approach starting in 2017
Candidates for Barry County sheriff both believe training is crucial to how deputies do their jobs throughout the county, and each are hoping to put an emphasis on specific areas, mainly interpersonal communication and investigation.
Former FBI Agent Gary Davis, R-Cassville, said if elected, the types of training he will seek is based on what he has heard from those in the community during his campaign.
"The biggest complaint that I've heard is that, sometimes, when deputies leave the scene of an investigation, the caller feels more like a subject than the victim," he said. "So, interpersonal relationships are key. I'm not saying we have to be choir boys, but the citizens pay our salaries, and they deserve our full respect until they show us they don't. You start at the lowest level to be safe, then escalate if you need to.
"But, you also have to get someone who can teach it. This is not something you can take a one-hour course and know all about it."
Ruark said, if elected, he would continue hitting on the crux of his campaign, hoping to get more training related to slowing the drug problems in the county.
"I'd like to have more drug awareness and investigation training," he said. "All training is a necessity. Communication skills and any types of training to assist in investigations would be important, too."
Ruark said interpersonal communication would fall into that realm as public relations.
"Classes have to deal with how you approach people and deal with people's problems just as much as investigating the who, what, where, when and why," he said. "It's hard enough for people to report some crimes, depending on the severity or if the victim is embarrassed or scared. Better training will allow our officers to help those people."
Training itself will change the day Ruark or Davis takes office, as the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) requirements will shift on Jan. 1, 2017. All deputies and reserves are POST-certified, which has for years required 40 hours of training every three years. Starting next year, POST will require 24 hours per year for its certified officers to maintain certification.
New requirements denote each officer must have eight hours of POST-certified other agency training, which cannot be completed in-house. All training must also fall into the following categories: two hours of legal studies, two hours of technical studies, two hours of interpersonal perspectives, two hours of firearms skills development, 16 hours of electives fitting into the previous four core areas and one hour of racial profiling training.
Furthermore, there must be two hours training in each of the following areas: officer well-being, including mental health awareness; fair and impartial policing, including implicit bias recognition; handling persons with mental health and cognitive impairment issues; and tactical training to include deescalation techniques, crisis management, critical thinking and social intelligence.
"There are the mandatory things we have to do with POST, so I want to look at the extraordinary areas," Davis said. "Active shooter training is something we do that goes above and beyond POST. Interview skills is something I also want to improve. Deputies are exposed to this in the police or sheriff academies, but we have a lot of new officers who learn by doing, and it's not always possible to send them out with experienced deputies."
Ruark said training by doing is something he would like to see more of in the office.
"I'd like to have us doing more because hands-on training plus book training will make it easier for us to understand and comprehend training," he said.
Part of the new requirements, the eight hours from an outside source, may affect expenses if deputies have to travel or pay a POST-certified trainer to come to Cassville.
"In-house training just requires time, but fore the POST-certified other agency training, that will mean funding the cost of travel, use of a patrol car or paying a trainer to teach here," Davis said.
Ruark said the Missouri Sheriffs Association offers online courses that may mitigate costs.
"There are classes you can drive to, but the Missouri Sheriffs Association offers online training, and I know the sheriff's office already budgets for training through the association," Ruark said. I've trained with the association and got my POST certification through them."
Davis said he is 100 percent in favor of more training and giving the deputies more tools with which to do their jobs.
"I'm all about getting the best people, equipment and training for officer safety, and the rest will come together," he said. "Training increases officer safety and the perception of deputies in public. A well-trained officer can do three times more work by accident than an untrained officer."
Ruark said training does not only help the deputies, but also helps the residents of Barry County..
"Anything that will help a deputy better-serve the community and gain the trust of the citizens easier is what training helps with," he said. "Any type of training that will help improve the deputies' job performance in any aspect is a plus.
"More training helps keep officers' awareness at its best, keeps them on their toes and helps with overall safety, not just for themselves, but for the citizens, as well."
Davis and Ruark will square off in the Nov. 8 General Election.