GRAND FORKS — For the 12th consecutive year, Lake Region State College will bring its law enforcement training program to Grand Forks this summer.
John Maritato, LRSC Police Department Lieutenant and Director of the Peace Officer Training Program, came to Grand Forks for each of these academies. Maritato said the program has an employment rate of nearly 100% for graduates, if those graduates are willing to move to another part of the state.
“My last three classes, every student who went through the academy actually had a job planned before they even graduated,” said Maritato, who works at the college’s Devils Lake campus. “There is definitely a need in North Dakota.”
One of the reasons academy graduates can find jobs so easily is that many state law enforcement officers are approaching retirement age. Every day, Maritato said, there are more than 30 vacancies statewide.
The coronavirus pandemic may have dampened some enthusiasm for a career in law enforcement, Maritato said. Additionally, heightened surveillance of law enforcement officers, following high-profile incidents across the country, could play a role. For example, the death of George Floyd, who died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in 2020, sparked nationwide protests and prompted calls for police reform.
This heightened oversight does not lessen the need for law enforcement, Maritato said, and his program is tasked with filling statewide vacancies with qualified applicants.
“It doesn’t matter what city you live in, we need police,” he said. “We are here to serve, protect and maintain order, and we must be able to provide good candidates for the jobs that are in North Dakota for law enforcement.”
The program takes the form of a police academy, with morning physical training followed by class work. The program is 14 weeks long and is part of the Lake District Associate Degree in Applied Law Enforcement Science. Enrollees can either take the full two-year course or opt for the academy only.
Those who complete the latter become eligible to work in law enforcement positions, either in municipal forces or in sheriff’s offices, statewide. To work for the largest police departments in cities – including Grand Forks, Fargo, Bismarck, Mandan and Minot – applicants must complete 60 semester credits of coursework.
Lake Region students who wish to pursue a career in law enforcement have various options. They can do the associate degree, which qualifies them to work for the largest police departments in the state, or attend the academy, which is offered at various times throughout the year. Upon completion of the academy, they can then work towards an associate degree. The courses are also available online.
Students study a variety of topics, such as arrest, search and seizure laws, crime scene handling, hazardous materials, use of police equipment and firearms . Ethics is also taught.
Maritato said the training modules are evolving with the goal of producing a more competent and better trained law enforcement officer.
The Lake District Police Academy in Grand Forks runs from May 17 through August 18. Another academy will take place at the same time in West Fargo. The last day to apply to the academy is May 6. More information, including program requirements and how to apply, can be found at lrsc.edu, by emailing Jennifer.Wignall@lrsc.edu, or by calling 701-662-1683.