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Law enforcement academy director Joseph King works at his computer this past week at Missouri Western State University. King is a few weeks into his new role after serving 20 years as an academy instructor.

A few weeks into his tenure as director of Missouri Western State University’s law enforcement academy, Joseph King already is seeing a difference from his years as an instructor there.

Some of the biggest adjustments are being able to recruit and retain staff to teach the academy’s curriculum, King said.

“(It’s) way different from dealing with continuing education training, people that are already working in the field,” he said. “As well as trying to figure out ways to enhance ... certain trainings we’re doing that have gone well. But that means how can we enhance those to improve their performance when they graduate?”

Many, if not all, of the law enforcement academy’s instructors work full time in the public safety sector. That means King has to make sure the staff includes extra instructors for each position in case anyone is called away from teaching.

“Their real jobs don’t stop just because they’re stopping to try to enhance the training in the academy,” he said.

King’s time in law enforcement includes serving in Buchanan and Platte counties. The history those departments have with the academy adds extra motivation to do well, he said.

“The expectations are high,” he said. “And so I want to serve well in my position to support those agencies because the need is really great right now for one, officers in general, but two, quality applicants who are ready and prepared to deal with the current environment, to operate at a professional level and to be able to serve people well.”

King worked on the other side of the aisle for Platte County before joining the academy as an instructor. His job was overseeing the hiring and recruitment process, so he is well aware of what factors agencies look for in prospective officers.

“The idea is this is a basic recruit-training class and we need them to be ready to perform and start their field trainings when they get to their agencies that have either sponsored them or are hiring them,” he said.

One debate for agencies is whether to hire an applicant preparing to finish at the academy or find someone first and send them to receive training. But the shortage of incoming officers is so extreme that most agencies are forced to take applicants from both paths to meet needs, King said.

Alexander Simone can be reached at alex.simone@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @np_simone.

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