By Victor Pitman, MSA Program Coordinator

One of the primary objectives of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association (MSA) is to support sheriffs and their deputies by providing the training necessary to perform their mission. Missouri state law requires all licensed peace officers (sheriffs, deputies, police officers) to complete 24 hours of annual Continuing Law Enforcement Education, commonly referred to as CLEE training. The training must be approved by the state or provided by a state-licensed CLEE training provider or basic academy provider. The MSA is licensed to provide both.

Although 24 hours of CLEE training may not appear to be unreasonable, the vast majority of sheriffs’ offices in the state are understaffed and their employees are already working overtime to cover their patrol, investigative, and jail operations. In order for a deputy to attend traditional CLEE training in a classroom, someone has to replace that deputy on patrol, in the jail or answering the 911 call because the service to the citizens must be the highest priority.

To address that, the MSA has developed an On-Line Learning Management System (LMS). The LMS is designed to reduce the amount of time spent in a traditional classroom by allowing deputies to go online and participate in CLEE training anywhere or anytime they have access to the internet. Deputies can log in and work on their CLEE training from the laptop in their patrol cars between service calls. Deputies working in the jail can log in and work on their CLEE training during authorized periods. Deputies who are off-duty can log in and work on their CLEE training without leaving home.

And there are plenty of classes to choose from. In 2018 more than 86 were available on the LMS. Each year and prior year classes must be reviewed, updated, and reapproved. In the first month of 2019 we updated or added more than 48 classes, putting us well on our way to providing even more hours of training in 2019 than in 2018.

There’s no limit to the number of hours that can be completed online so deputies can meet their license requirements for 22 of the 24 mandated hours through the LMS. The remaining two hours must be hands-on practical skill development in firearms, which, of course, cannot be completed on line.

The MSA training can be obtained one of three ways – by becoming a contract training partner, by contracting for LMS training only or by simply paying for individual classes as they are taken.

The money in the state’s Law Enforcement Training Fund comes from a $1 fee added to traffic violation convictions. Each year those funds are divvied up between all law enforcement agencies based on a population formula and agencies can spend the money on training as they see fit. Agencies that choose to become contract training partners turn over 100 percent of those funds to the MSA and, in return, deputies and staff can take an unlimited number of LMS courses free-of-charge. The MSA currently contracts with 119 law enforcement agencies throughout the state under that agreement, 50 percent of which turn over less than $1,000 per year.

Agencies that want to contract only for LMS training services pay $30 per agency user, per year. Compare that to for-profit online law enforcement training companies, who charge from $50 to more than $80 per year, per user for training that is often not specific to Missouri and you will see that by taking advantage of the LMS, even the smallest sheriff’s office or police department can save money while ensuring deputies/officers receive the required training.

Those who choose to take only occasional training pay $12.50 for a 30-minute class or $24 for classes one hour or longer. Anyone – college students majoring in criminal justice or even high school students who are interested in preparing for a future in law enforcement – can take advantage of this program.

Changes in the law make LMS more important than ever.

In 2009 the state training fund distributed $1,383,599.29 to about 548 agencies. Since 2009, the annual fund collected decreased by 48 percent, distributing $788,712.18 in 2018. At the same time, in 2017 the minimum training required to maintain a license increased from an average of 16 hours per year to 24 hours per year. As training demands increase and the dollars to pay for it decrease, the MSA relies more and more on membership fees to supplement the costs of developing and maintaining quality training. So on behalf of Missouri sheriffs, we thank you for your support and for partnering with us to make your communities safer.