Police Academy 100th graduating class
Since the academy opened in 1972, more than 2,000 officers have matriculated through the intensive training program, and 34 different law-enforcement agencies have sent their employees to receive certification.
To find a graduate of that first class, you need to look no further than the academy’s administrative offices. Jerry Wolfskill, associate vice president, public safety, has his office in PA 103. He was one of the 25 graduates from that first class. Inside his office, you might find him talking to Regional Police Academy instructor Denis Plumly, an officer with the Overland Park Police Department and another graduate of that very first class. The two have been friends for 39 years.
Plumly has been an instructor at the academy on and off since 1979, and Wolfskill became director of the Regional Police Academy in 1980 after serving the Overland Park Police and the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
Before the Police Academy was housed at JCCC, newly hired but untrained officers in Johnson County often would attend the police academy in Kansas City, Mo.
When the suburbs of the county started swelling in population, the need for trained police officers increased as well. At first, the officers were trained in available classrooms at JCCC – first in the Science Building, then in the Industrial Technology Building – until horse sheds were bulldozed to make room for a new building on the west side of campus.
The Police Academy building, which is also home to the administration of justice program, opened in 2001.
Some things are still the same as they were in 1972, said Wolfskill and Plumly. Those cadets coming to the Police Academy already have been hired by a law-enforcement agency and need training in conflict resolution, vehicle pursuit and firearms use. Other time-tested skills include patrol procedures, accident investigation, report writing and knowledge of the law.
Some things have changed, however. Officers in 1972 studied for 12 weeks. Today, the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in Hutchinson, Kan., sets a minimum of 540 hours of training. The academy provides 640 hours (or the equivalent of 16 weeks at 40 hours a week). In 1972, officers went out on patrol the day after graduation. Today, most police forces have a post-academy program followed by field training with a veteran officer.
“Everything’s more complex now,” Plumly said. “Everything’s done on computer.” Officers need to have expert computer skills, he said.
The firepower is different, too, they said. The jump from a .38-caliber revolver to a semi-automatic Glock .44-caliber handgun was a big one.
Police Academy graduates can be found in every police department in Johnson County, including the chief-of-police position. Some have left Kansas to become law-enforcement officers in large cities throughout the United States. Others have used their talents in federal agencies like border patrol, the FBI and the Secret Service. Still others have gone on to study law, like Melody Rayl, a practicing lawyer and the current vice chair of the JCCC board of trustees, and Sara Welch, now a Johnson County district court judge.
Rayl also worked as one of the first full-time instructors at the academy from 2001 through 2005. “Some of the finest young men and women in our community have walked through these doors – eager to learn and willing to serve,” said Rayl. “While the training has evolved over the years to keep pace with changing technology, that desire to be a part of making our community a better place has never changed over the 100 classes that have graduated from the Johnson County Regional Police Academy.”JCCC President Terry Calaway will speak at the ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, in Yardley Hall in the Carlsen Center.