History of the Somerset County Police Academy

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The Somerset County Police Academy takes pride in its reputation of being one of the finest training facilities in the State. This is a reputation that has been developed when the Academy was established in 1987 as a result of the need to ensure quality law enforcement training for police officers serving residents in the municipalities of Somerset County. 

The Academy conducted two Basic Course for Police Officers Training Programs each year. The basic course, which lasted approximately 25 weeks, was one of the longest and most comprehensive of its kind in the state. This course is best described as a blend of military training and college academics. During the Basic Course for Police Officers, recruits were taught over 120 subjects, to include: Criminal Law, Police Professionalism, Criminal Justice Systems, Arrest, Search & Seizure, Communications, Emergency Driving, Emergency Medical Training, Firearms, Self-Defense, Patrol Practices, Motor Vehicle Laws, Accident Investigation, Criminal Investigation and Physical Fitness. Over the past 26 years, 48 police recruit classes totaling more than 2,000 officers have successfully graduated from the Academy. The Academy has also trained Correction and Parole Officers.

In 1993, the Somerset County Police Academy was the first Academy in the State to offer citizens of Somerset County the opportunity to receive basic police training through a state approved Alternate Route Program. Acceptance into this program was highly competitive. Candidates who were selected were enrolled directly into the regular 25-week Basic Course for Police Officers. Application costs, admission expenses, tuition, and other fees were paid by the Alternate Route candidate. From 1993 to 2013, the Somerset County Police Academy successfully graduated and placed over 400 individuals as a result of this program. The cost savings associated with this program to our municipalities is estimated at approximately $30,000 per officer, which constitutes a $9 million dollar savings to taxpayers.

In 1998, the Academy began running basic training courses for county corrections officers. From 1998 to 2013, the Academy graduated 24. In 1999, the Academy became the first academy in the state to certify police recruits in the use of the defibrillator. The Academy was honored for this achievement by Somerset Medical Center. Also in 1999, the graduates of the basic police recruit program became the first recruits in the United States to become certified as Community Policing Officers. The Somerset County Police Academy redesigned its Basic Training Program to allow for this process and continued this certification with each graduate. Certification for this program came from the U.S. Department of Justice and was administered by the New Jersey Regional Community Policing Institute. The certification was built into the six month Basic Training Program at the Academy. The curriculum consisted of 10, one day training modules aimed at developing a community policing philosophy. Upon completion of the 10 training modules a “Capstone Project” was required for certification. A Capstone Project requires that officers meet with members of the community. Community members identified a problem, issue, or concern in their community and the officers developed a strategic course of action using a problem-solving model to resolve or remediate the issue.

In addition to basic training, the Academy conducted more than 150 continuing education classes each year for uniform patrol officers, corrections officers, detectives, and assistant prosecutors. As a result of the diverse subject matter and high quality of instruction offered at the Academy, law enforcement officers from throughout the tri-state area have consistently sought admission to various programs.

The Police Academy offers training for private citizens of Somerset County in personal safety in addition to training for security personnel, and community organizations such as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. The Academy also operates a “Police Youth Week” during the summer. As part of this program, high school students receive an intense one-week training program modeled after the Academy’s Basic Police Recruit Training Program. In addition, The Academy offers civilians a 12 week “Preparing for a Career in Law Enforcement, a self-defense course for employees and a variety of additional classes, including, Active Shooter, Personal Safety for High School Seniors and a Leadership/Staff Development Course.

In 2000, the Police Academy was relocated and integrated as an academic program at Raritan Valley Community College. As a result of the move to the college; Somerset, Hunterdon, and Middlesex County residents and police departments were afforded the opportunity to participate in this initiative.

Since its inception, the Somerset County Police Academy has developed a reputation as a leader in providing some of the most challenging, innovative and comprehensive law enforcement recruit and continuing education training. As a testament to this reputation, in July, 2002, the Academy’s Police Basic Training Program was featured nationally on Court Television. The program titled “The Elite” featured basic training at Somerset in a series that highlights the premier law enforcement agencies across the nation in their respective areas of expertise.

In 2003, “Spanish for Law Enforcement” and a Lifeguard Certification were implemented into the Police Recruit Training Program, as the Academy continued to provide new initiatives in developing the most professional officer possible. In 2004, the Academy continued its regionalization efforts by joining in a collaborative partnership with Warren County Community College and the Warren County Law Enforcement community. From October, 2004 to 2013, Warren County Community College became an official satellite facility of the Somerset County Police Academy.

In 2005 and 2006, our Continuing Education program saw unparalleled growth! Recognizing that one of our primary objectives was to provide our law enforcement agencies with training that is current and relevant, more than 50 new course titles were added to our Continuing Education Program in 2006 and 2007.

In 2008, Somerset County Police Academy was selected by the N.J. State Division of Parole to train new parole officers. Since then, Somerset has conducted 2 basic training classes for state parole officers, training over approximately 40 new officers. 

In 2009-10, the Police Academy purchased a state-of-the-art decision making/force simulator. Known as the Force Analysis System of Training or FAST, this new training initiative became operational to the Academy’s service area in 2011.

In 2012, with BCCO Class #23-12, recruit training operations moved to the Emergency Services Training Academy in Hillsborough, N.J.

In 2013, the last basic course, BCPO Class, #48-13, graduated as police officers from the Police Academy.

In 2014, the Police Academy refocused its efforts on its Continuing Education and Community Service programs. Also, a “new” addition is being constructed at the ESTA building to handle to growing needs of The Somerset County Police Academy.