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Roanoke city police academy battling unprecedented challenges head-on

'Training new officers is really our best way to make a better impact on the community’

ROANOKE, Va. – Police departments across the country are having a hard time finding enough officers.

Roanoke city’s latest academy is working to address the challenges driving the shortage, from COVID-19 to the current climate around policing.

Training to become a police officer looks much different these days.

COVID-19 has complicated the process but it hasn’t kept 12 recruits from pursuing careers as Roanoke city police officers.

“Just really help people to be honest, just serve and protect,” said Lauren Camper, a Roanoke police recruit.

The class is about half the size the department was hoping for and needs to get closer to being fully-staffed.

The job, however, is a harder sell than ever given the inherent risks, the pandemic and the current racial climate putting the spotlight on police.

That’s kept some people from pursuing law enforcement but for recruit Dionte Logan, it did the opposite.

“Not everyone’s bad. Not all cops are bad. Not all Black people are bad and I want to prove that,” Logan said.

Proving that through policing starts with training in the academy. Sgt. Ben Masters, who’s the academy’s assistant director, said that’s where police reform starts too.

“Training new officers is really our best way to make a better impact on the community and the department,” Masters said.

Headlines calling police into question have changed the job and who wants to do it, but they also present a learning opportunity.

“If it’s preventable, we should train to prevent it,” Masters said. “Obviously, we can’t train situation by situation; it’s just impossible. There’s so many variables but if you can keep in mind your purpose while you’re there, you’ll make better decisions when you have to make those decisions.”

The climate has created challenges for police but also opportunities for change.

“I don’t want to be the one sitting on the sidelines, not able to do something about it so this way, when my kids grow up, their dad tried or at least attempted to do something to change the world,” Logan said.

Historically, many recruits don’t make it through the entire academy. If these 12 graduate, the department will still be about 13 officers short.

To apply, click here, call the academy at 540-853-2649 or email recruiter@roanokeva.gov.


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