By Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 27, 2010; B01
Prince George's Community College has replaced the head of the police academy it runs for small departments and hired a consultant in an effort to meet state training standards.
But two months after assuring the state that it could certify that the academy meets those goals, the college still cannot produce records showing that its recent graduates all were taught, tested on and passed required areas, a state official said Tuesday. The academy is barred from offering new training classes until it can satisfy state auditors.
Thirty-five rookies from 21 police agencies who graduated in 2008 and 2009 already were forced to repeat some course work beginning in November after state officials could not find complete records during a routine audit. But the academy failed to keep solid records again, and those 35 face being recalled another time, said Albert Liebno, head of skills training for the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions.
The problems at the academy already have caused three officers -- in Hyattsville, Bladensburg and Laurel -- to be assigned desk duties while their academic records are sorted through, Liebno said. The trouble lies with the academy, not with the officers, he said.
"Academy records remain a mess," Liebno said. "There are documents missing, and others hopscotch around so much that we can see some people in classes who had grades recorded but others in the same class didn't. Some tests results are there, some aren't. But there is no pattern to it."
As of Friday, academy director Wendell Brantley "is no longer employed by the college," said Daniel Mosser, the college's vice president for workforce development and continuing education. Regina Taylor-White, a retired major with the Prince George's County Police Department and a former instructor at its academy, has been hired to remedy state concerns about the most recent graduates within 30 days. She also will come up with long-term improvements during the next three months, Mosser said.
"I'm confident we have the right set of eyes" on the academy, he said.
Mosser acknowledged, however, that the 2008 and 2009 classes risk being recalled once more.
Brantley, who is also chief of the Fairmount Heights Police Department, did not respond to several interview requests Tuesday.
"They needed a management change at the academy, so that is progress," said Michael Scott, police chief in Mount Rainier and head of the Police Chiefs Association of Prince George's County. "But a majority of the chiefs out here are still of the same mind: Until we can see clearly that everything is squared away and running correctly over there, we will not hire someone trained there or send our new officers to be trained or send current officers for courses."
The academy is not the training arm for the county's police force but does conduct classes for many of the area's municipal departments that are too small to run their own academies. The college academy did not supervise weapons training or driving skills. Instructors at the state training commission conducted those classes. But academy courses covered more than 500 specific required areas, including criminal law, searches, use of force, investigations and court testimony.
The three officers assigned to desk duties had one year to complete accredited class instruction after being hired provisionally, Liebno said. But their records on the go-back classes also had gaps, he said, creating a "big problem" for the officers. Three more officers are coming up on a similar deadline in mid-March, Liebno said.
"Frankly, I'm thinking, and other chiefs are assuming, too, that officers who got called back already for something that wasn't their fault may have to go for a third round at the academy if they can't sort this out. I'm hot about that, and for a small department having to pay full salary for an officer we cannot use on patrol while they train is a burden," said New Carrollton Police Chief David Rice.
The academy trains 40 to 60 cadets a year during a 24-week course. Some students pay their own way to position themselves for jobs, but the costs for others are covered by police departments.
Other departments that hired from or sent officers to the academy include Aberdeen, Bowie, Colmar Manor, Cottage City, District Heights, Glenarden, Landover Hills, Riverdale, Seat Pleasant and Takoma Park. Officers with Baltimore City Community College and the Maryland Transit Administration Police also were in the classes, state records show.