Smaller training classes mean more officers hitting Kansas streets

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"This is a huge step forward in the quality of training.  You'll be able to see an improvement, we believe, an improvement in the quality of officers," said Darin Beck, Executive Director of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (KLETC).

The training center debuted new classrooms for a new curriculum this week, designed to turn out better trained police officers at a faster rate.

"We got computers.  We have all sorts of new equipment.  They're even changing the way they teach," said Ruben Alba, a trainee from the Finney Co. Sheriff's Office.  "So far so good."

Alba is a member of the first class to go through a new generation of training, something the KLETC has been working on for more than a year, trying to respond to the need for new officers, the KLETC had been teaching an overload the last few years.  

"It started to degrade the quality of the training," said Beck.  "We were running 67, 68 students in a class."

Beck says they designed the new classrooms to fit the needs of modern teaching practices.

"We put together a committee of instructors, technical experts, facilities experts, and said, 'We want a classroom that's going to support our new way of teaching,' which is smaller groups, more hands on, more project oriented teaching," he explained.  "And this is what they came up with."

The students are arranged in groups, or pods, of six.  Each student has his or her own laptop computer that can communicate with the instructor's computer via an internal networking system.  There are microphones hanging from the ceiling scattered across the room, and a webcam giving the room the ability to connect via distance learning with any teacher or student around the world. 

"I'm a hands-on kind of guy so I like to be able to do things other than just sitting down and listening.  So yeah, this improves everything," said Alba.  "It looks like it's going to be a good experience."

Along with all the tech comes a smaller class, down to 24 students from 60.  All designed to help keep you safer at home and on the road.

"We know that we were training them well before.  We were training them in the law.  We were training them in knowledge of procedures," Beck said.  "What we weren't doing a very good job in was those softer skills: being able to communicate, being able to work as team, ethical decision making on a personal level.  Those sorts of things you have to work on in a small group.  There's just no other way to teach that."

"A small class is better.  You get your questions answered.  It's more of a one on one," Alba said.

The plan behind these changes is to produce better trained officers and more of them.  With the smaller classes, the training center says it can now run multiple classes at the same time, actually increasing the number of trainees who graduate to patrolling your neighborhood.