On the first day of class Feb. 11, the new Cass County Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy Director Craig McMein told the inaugural class of recruits that from this day forward, they’ll be seen in a different light as peace officers.
Wearing a law enforcement uniform comes with responsibility, McMein told the 21 students enrolled.
“You’re representing me and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office,” he said, in a stern demeanor.
Sheriff Dwight Diehl and Major Jeff Weber also greeted the recruits with similar words in the first few moments of the class.
McMein, who has taught at two different academies over the last five years, said that it’s his hope to build a quality reputation across the state.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office has been hosting law enforcement academies since 2008 for the Missouri Sheriff’s Association, with classes being taught by Cass County deputies and police officers from around the Kansas City area.
But on Oct. 10, Cass County received unanimous approval by the Missouri Police Officers Standards and Training Commission Board to become their own licensed training center.
“We believe it is our responsibility to provide accessible training to agencies in our region,” Diehl said. “As part of a rural region, we understand how important it is to provide training that is rural-specific and located within close proximity.”
The Regional Training Academy will conduct one part-time, 624 hour Class A certified training classes each year and provide over 270 hours of continuing education to certified law enforcement officers throughout the year.
Classes are held on weekday evenings and on the weekends.
Enrollment is limited to 30 students. For the inaugural class, the Sheriff’s Office received 25 applications.
The comprehensive academy will take about 10 months to complete, with graduation set for Nov. 20.
In an upcoming series, the Cass County Democrat Missourian will be following the class of recruits, which primarily consists of Cass County residents, including 42-year-old Derek Van Brunt of Peculiar, through graduation day.
Van Brunt, who is married with two teenage children, has been working in the construction industry over the past 20 years and is looking to make a career change.
“I have family in law enforcement and always wanted to follow their lines but just never took their opportunity and now, at my age, I don’t feel like I’ve done what I’ve always wanted to do,” Van Brunt said.
With the proximity of the new academy, Van Brunt became interested interested in the program.
“I’ve looked into other academies, Metropolitan Community College-Blue River in particular, but it’s quite a deal to get there and back,” he said. “This is definitely convenient, and I respect the Cass County agency.”
In military fashion, recruits are expected to respond with “No, sir” and “Yes, sir,” as well as other similar courtesies.
They’re also called to report any incidents involving law enforcement outside of class to McMein, in addition to a long list of regulations, including where they can and cannot wear their uniforms.
The recruits will be taught the basics of law enforcement through classroom instruction and training exercises, making them eligible to take a POST certification exam. Upon passing the exam, academy graduates will be qualified for Class A Law Enforcement certification, enabling participants to work at a variety of agencies throughout the state of Missouri.
“Like a traditional academy, you’re going to get your necessary skill set, but we hope with what we have learned through our experience with our instructors, is that we are going to be able to provide beyond the scope of information that is going to make them a better person and a better officer,” McMein said.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office is the only county in the state to offer a law enforcement training program.
In addition to the academy, the Sheriff’s Office will also be providing in upwards of 100 hours of continuing education for current commissioned officers.