New Dover Police Academy will also serve downstate municipalities

Space for physical training, defensive tactics, drill instructions and more have been created for the upcoming Dover Police Municipal Academy. (Submitted photos/Dover Police Department)

DOVER — Aiming to add new officers without delay as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic limits other options, Dover police will host in-house training for the first time in nearly 30 years beginning next month.

The Dover Police Municipal Academy starts Oct. 4 and will continue for approximately 19 weeks. Besides eight Dover PD candidates, another eight will come from Seaford, Milford, Bridgeville, Harrington and Millsboro. Two other jurisdictions may also participate, spokesman Sgt. Mark Hoffman said.

“This became necessary with limited space available at the Delaware State Police Academy due to the coronavirus and the significant number of vacancies at our department,” according to Sgt. Hoffman.

The wait for DSP-administered training would have been at least six months from October, with a projected start by March if COVID-19 conditions and space allowed. Sgt. Hoffman said recruits could not have graduated until fall 2021 at the earliest.

The New Castle County Police Department’s training academy (which DPD previously utilized as well) was operating under similar circumstances and wasn’t projected to host a recruit class until spring 2021 at the earliest.

The timeline for other agencies training would have “severely impacted our efforts to fill the open positions in the department and provide quality services to the city of Dover,” Sgt. Hoffman said.

While Dover PD has an authorized strength of 106, there are 93 active officers as of now. Besides the eight academy candidates, the city recently approved the addition of five more officers as well.

According to Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, the academy will be focused on training municipal police officers. He described the in-house training as a “great morale builder. It’s created a certain esprit de corps and generated a lot of enthusiasm.”

Construction for multipurpose space for Dover Police Municipal Academy should be completed within the next two weeks.

Certified instructors from Dover PD, other police agencies and organizations will administer the training, along with community speakers. All of the training will follow Delaware Council on Police Training mandates.

The 720 hours of training surpasses COPT guidelines calling for 584, Cpl. Hoffman said.

According to Sgt. Hoffman, “Most of our annual in-service/refresher training is conducted by certified in-house instructors as well.

“We have several officers who are certified instructors in Delaware and assist in training and as academy staff for Delaware State Police, so this is not new to much of our academy personnel.”

There is a $1,000 fee per outside recruit, which Dover PD said will help to offset the costs of training materials, supplies and improving areas of the academy, Sgt. Hoffman said.

“Dover PD saves money by not having to pay outside agencies for their recruits to attend their academy since we are hosting our own,” Sgt. Hoffman added.

Dover recruits get paid an academy salary while attending the training. As of July 1, academy recruits start at a salary of $49,696 per year. Upon completion of the academy, their base salary is $55,207, Sgt. Hoffman said.

Seaford police will send one recruit through the academy and another is possible, spokesman Master Cpl. Eric Chambers. The candidates are paid through the city budget, Cpl. Chambers said.

Milford recruits are paid as well, with their full-time status beginning on the first day of training, spokesman Sgt. Robert Masten said.

Dover modeled its academy from various others, including DSP, New Castle County and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, according to the department.

The community will be part of the training efforts through:

• Utilizing social media posts to educate the public on police training.

• Talks by cultural community leaders to supplement training on cultural awareness and community relations classes.

• The use of selected members of the public as role players in non-tactical scenarios .