ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – A nationwide police officer shortage is affecting local law enforcement. Police departments here in the Tri-Cities are struggling to fill open jobs.
A new program at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology is working to change that.
“The job is dangerous,” Myles Cook said. “Law enforcement, corrections, they can be inherently dangerous. The techniques that we’re teaching and the hands-on training that we’re getting, I think you can learn about as much as you can before you walk through those doors into the workplace.”
Myles Cook is an instructor for TCAT Elizabethton, teaching criminal justice for jailers and guards.
He is a reservist in the Marine Corps. He is an adjunct instructor at ETSU, where he teaches Criminal Justice Ethics, Criminological Theory, Policing in America, Corrections, Probability and Statistics, Violence: The American Experience, according to a press release from TCAT Elizabethton. Cook is also an in-service instructor at the Carter County Sheriff’s Office where he teaches firearms training and search and seizure law.
The new program began January 2020.
Cook said, “This is a hands-on training, as far as corrections officer. There are no other programs in the state of Tennessee that handles corrections the way we’re handling it.”
Cook is teaching a broad range of topics in the college’s criminal justice program.
“We go over some of the basics, defensive tactics, things like that, then we go over things that are not generally taught in corrections. Emergency vehicle use,” Cook said.
Students will learn how to properly process an inmate, maintain order in the jail and implement disciplinary measures when necessary.
“Substance abuse, how to deal with the mentally ill, anything that could ever happen in a jail is kind of what we’re training for. We’re coming at it very differently than how it’s taught in the past,” Cook explained.
The course has an extra feature that other Tennessee technical colleges do not have.
Cook said, “We have actually built a jail cell, here in our lab. It’ll be used by the students to conduct a lot of different hands on training. One day it may be used for a deescalation, someone who does not want to exit the cell, the next day it may be used as a cell extraction.”
The college services five counties: Carter, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington.
“These counties are severely undermanned for corrections work. They do not have the numbers they need, and what we’re hoping is to give them a product in the way of a student that they’ve never seen before,” he said.
The Johnson City Police Department is short of 16 officers, Kingsport Police Department has 10 and Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office has four correctional officer positions available. Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, with Hawkins County cited the shortage being due to low pay and the dangers of the job.
“They’re very supportive of the program. I’ll have them come in and also help with the program and teach the program, parts of it, to the way they need and the people that they’ll need and the people they’ll want to hire,” Cook explained.
“It’s in the lesson plan,” Cook explained. “How to safely do things? How to safely transport an inmate or move an inmate, how to talk to an inmate, how to do a lot of things that will really increase the safety of the officers and everybody around.”
In a press release from TCAT Elizabethton, students who complete the first trimester will receive a correctional officer apprentice certificate (432 clock hours of study). Students who complete both trimesters will receive a master correctional officer certificate (864 clock hours of study).
Students must apply online to be admitted to TCAT Elizabethton here.