New police officers have a grace period before being required to attend police academy. Normally the time frame is six months to a year, but some states, such as Wisconsin and Mississippi, the grace period lasts two years.
So what does this mean? New officers are on the street, with badges and guns, who have yet to attend and pass through police academy.
And why is this happening? Mostly because of money; often police departments do not want to invest the thousands of dollars it costs to send a new officer through the academy for weeks or months, without a trial run to see how he’ll do (while he remains on payroll). Although these rookies are normally supposed to be supervised by a tenured officer, that doesn’t always happen.
Most of the untrained officers are employed by small town police departments or by sheriffs’ offices. The data cannot be found to disclose how many, exactly, untrained officers are currently working on the streets.
The consequences can be severe. In Illinois, one of these untrained officers got into a high speed chase that killed a driver. In Indiana, a campus policeman (untrained) shot and killed an unarmed student.
Naturally, lawsuits abound. Laws in Indiana allow one year for the new officers to enter academy, but, if they take a 40 hour pre-basic course, they are actually even allowed to begin enforcement activities. Robert Duplain was one such officer in 2003. At the age of 24, Duplain shot and killed unarmed 21 year old college student, Michael McKinney, at Ball University where he was working. He put three rounds in the boy’s chest and one in his head. Duplain was responding to a burglary call when McKinney lunged at him. According to McKinney’s family, he’d gone to the wrong home after having been out drinking.
In another incident, new and untrained officer Misty McPherson of Sparta Illinois did not know how to turn on the sirens in the police car. While involved in a chase, she rammed into the side of the SUV belonging to 58 year old nurse Janice Coleman, killing her.
Janice Coleman’s family won a $5.4 million lawsuit.
As it stands right now, some states will not allow a police officer on the force without training. Those states are Colorado, California, Arizona, Delaware, Connecticut, Missouri, Michigan, Hawaii, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming, Utah, and Vermont.
Many states that currently allow untrained officers to work on the streets are beginning to reconsider.