Issue Brief: Comparing Law Enforcement Basic Training Academies

Report #264, November 2021


A fact sheet summarizing the Commission’s research on law enforcement training is available here

California has the fourth most law enforcement basic training academies nationwide, but ranks 41st among states when accounting for population. The state’s rate – 1 academy per 1 million people – is less than half the overall U.S. rate of 2.5, explains the Commission in its latest Issue Brief.

The Brief, which outlines current research without making policy recommendations, reviews law enforcement basic training academy models and gives context to the different ways this training is administered across the nation and within the state.

This is the Commission’s second Issue Brief focused on law enforcement training. Its first, published earlier this month, shares findings from a survey of active-duty California peace officers about their training experiences.

“The intent of this Issue Brief is to provide policymakers with a better understanding of the different models of administering basic training across the country. It is vital to always look for ways to make basic training better in California,” says Commission Chair Pedro Nava.

In its Issue Brief, the Commission draws on data gathered from a survey of state law enforcement leaders, issued with the assistance of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training. The Commission discovered that:

  • Five percent of the nation’s 822 basic training academies operate in California, which has approximately 12 percent of the nation’s population.
  • California relies heavily on its academic institutions to provide basic training programs; approximately two-thirds of the state’s academies are administered by or in partnership with community colleges.
  • With 41 academies, California uses a decentralized model to administer its basic training programs. Nine states centralize administration of all training through a single academy.
  • California’s basic training is less localized than in the U.S. overall; 22 percent of the state’s training academies are administered by local entities compared to 34 percent of the nation’s academies overall.

The Brief also provides data on training hours, attendance, passing, and hiring rates of California’s basic training academies, based on analysis of data obtained from the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). The Commission found that from 2015 to 2020:

  • Half of students attending California’s 41 basic training academies were trained by just eight academies.
  • The vast majority of academy students graduate and get a job as a law enforcement officer. Approximately 82 percent of students passed their academy and of those who passed, 88 percent were subsequently hired.
  • Students trained via the modular format – delivered in a three-part instructional sequence – were more likely to pass their academy but less likely to be hired than students trained via the standard format – delivered in a one-part instructional sequence.
  • Students attending basic training academies administered by an academic institution were most likely to pass and least likely to be hired when compared to students attending an academy administered by a state, regional, or local entity.

The Commission also found that as of August 2021, all basic training academies far exceed the state’s minimum training requirement – 664 hours for training offered in the standard format and 730 hours for training offered in the modular format – with over half of programs requiring 900 to 999 hours of training.

This Brief was produced as part of the Commission’s study to examine the role of POST in shaping law enforcement training standards for California’s peace officers. The Commission anticipates that it will release its full report with recommendations later this fall.

Relevant Reports

(Report #265, November 2021)
(Report #263, November 2021)