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Rural Justice Center paying off, says RPD chief

Jan 20, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The center has been open for almost five years, providing training sessions primarily to rural law enforcement agencies throughout the state and region.

Local law enforcement officials took turns praising the Rural Justice Training Center at Central Wyoming College during a January meeting of the CWC Board of Trustees.

The RJTC has been open for almost five years, providing training sessions to primarily rural law enforcement agencies throughout the state and region.

Riverton Police Department chief Mike Broadhead said the center's location in Fremont County gives his officers a "professional edge."

"Training is such a critical function," Broadhead said. "It keeps us relevant to our community and crimes we have to investigate."

It can be expensive to send officers to training sessions elsewhere, Broadhead continued, so he has made sure to take advantage of the RJTC's proximity.

He said 10 staff members were taking a course at CWC in November conducted by a professional expert.

"We wouldn't have money to send one person to (see) a nationally recognized trainer, but now it's happening regularly," Broadhead said. "We've had officers and staff at every one of those training classes."

The RJTC offers virtual firearms lessons, a mobile training lab, practice field work sessions and myriad specialized classes, like the Wyoming School Resource Officers course coming up in June. A split-screen camera at the facility allows students to review their actions and responses during practice scenarios, and one area is designated for hand-to-hand, defensive tactics for training in custody and control.

Experts come in from throughout the country to discuss their work with special response teams or talk about the latest evidence gathering techniques, for example.

"It's a great way to collaborate with the college," Broadhead said.

CWC also benefits, since police officers at the RJTC count as students at the school.

RJTC director Eric Heiser said about 370 officers took almost 380 credits in the past year, with much of the tuition paid for through a Community Oriented Policing Services grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The $350,000 grant offers free access to the RJTC for agencies serving the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker said he has appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with area law enforcement agencies at the RJTC.

His group often works with the RPD and the Wind River Police Department, among other local agencies, and he said it has been helpful for his deputies to spend more time with their peers throughout the county.

"When we respond to a major incident in Fremont County, we don't respond as a blue or a brown uniform - we respond as law enforcement," Hornecker said. "These officers have the opportunity to train together, so when they respond they're on the same page."

The county saves money by using the local center, too, and Hornecker said he is able to send more officers to each session because the facility is close to home.

"None of us has an overabundance of officers," Hornecker said. "It would be difficult to send a number of officers to a training outside of town."

Previously a staff instructor at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas, Hornecker said he has been impressed by the quality of training available at the RJTC.

"It's basically the No. 1 facility in the state other than the academy," he said. "I'm pleased it's taken off and gone as well as it has."

CWC trustee Colton Crane thanked the group for checking in and letting the board members know about the goings-on at the RJTC. CWC completed construction of the on-campus facility in 2009, according to the school.

"Sometimes we make decisions and we don't know if it works out or not," Crane said. "This sounds like a great program."

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