Persistence pays off: Full police academy approved at COS

Sarah Kirby
College of the Siskiyous Administration of Justice faculty member Michele Korkowski is shown teaching cadets in the police academy, which recently got certified by the state as a full academy, a process that took years.

Students no longer need to travel long distances to become law enforcement officers because College of the Siskiyous was approved earlier this spring by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to offer a complete police academy.

Jeremiah LaRue, Director of Administration of Justice at COS, and Administration of Justice faculty member Michele Korkowski are elated by the news. Both, and especially LaRue, are credited with working diligently toward the certification for years, while many in the area said it couldn’t be done.

“Since the ’80s, the college has offered a modular law enforcement academy consisting of only half the required hours needed to be eligible for full-time employment as a peace officer in California. We’ve been trying for about seven years to get the other half certified locally,” said LaRue. “We had to demonstrate a local training need to the state by completing a comprehensive “needs assessment” and submitting it to POST for consideration. After reviewing the documentation we provided, POST finally issued an approval for the full police academy. Building good relationships and persistence paid off.”

The Regular Basic Course, or what is commonly referred to as the Basic Police Academy, consists of either one single course or the three-part modular format. Previously, the college offered only two of the three modules (Module III and Module II). Now COS also offers Module I, which allows a graduate to be eligible for full-time employment as a law enforcement officer in the State of California.

“We are excited about this program because now our local community members can attain full peace officer training right here at COS, instead of having to travel to Butte College (Chico) or College of the Redwoods (Eureka) to complete the Level 1 certification,” Korkowski said.

In recent years, according to LaRue, at least 60 students have completed modules III and II, but are unable to relocate to complete module I. They will be the primary target for the COS Police Academy.

Classes in the academy will be taught by current and retired law enforcement professionals along with LaRue and Korkowski. Students in the academy will learn about search and seizure, crime scenes, criminal investigation, firearms training, arrest and control as well as other learning domains.

LaRue said the trainings are comprehensive and students are required to complete a series of 14 different skill-based scenarios all of which they must pass.

“I’ve felt bad for many years that we could only offer half of the police training locally and students had to drive hundreds of miles to finish their training,” LaRue said. “There are many people with great intentions to be in law enforcement but they cannot relocate for the training, so they unfortunately never finish and in some cases, give up their pursuit of the career entirely. I’ve been told for five plus years that [certification] will never happen. Students are very excited about Module I.”

Other schools in the area were supportive of COS receiving certification, according to LaRue, and due to the economy, he believes many students will be able to find a full-time job with benefits within the county. He also feels that neighboring counties will gladly hire graduates from the program.

LaRue hopes to use grant money to help with student expenses that pertain to the academy, such as ballistic vests, utility belts and other duty equipment. Plus, there have been talks about scholarship opportunities.

“I want students to come here and not have to spend a fortune for their training,” he said. “Anyone who is willing to go into law enforcement and put their life on the line, well, I think we should do as much as we can to support those people and help them out. In some academies you could spend $5,000 in uniforms, equipment, and supplies, and we want to help take away a lot of that financial burden from the students,” LaRue said.

LaRue and Korkowski embrace community service as an integral aspect of the academy. They feel that being able to work with the public is paramount to a police officer, and community service fosters public relations skill sets. Currently, COS offers an Associate of Arts degree program in Administration of Justice and an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT).

Korkowski said, “The career path that we would like to make the community aware of is this: a local high school graduate can attend the ADJ degree program at COS under Siskiyou Promise, and then upon graduation with their degree, can enter the academy and earn full peace officer certification without having to leave the county. Additionally, many agencies are now requiring that peace office applicants have completed their AA/AS degree (or at least some college) as a prerequisite before hiring. This pathway is ideal, because although a minimum age of 18 is required to enter the academy, most law enforcement agencies require applicants to be at least 21 years of age at the time of hiring.”

In order to enroll in the academy students must meet the minimum age of 18, hold a valid driver’s license, and complete a medical clearance. They must complete the College of the Siskiyous application process, and be free of felony convictions or legal mandates that restrict or prohibit employment as a law enforcement officer or possession of a firearm. To find out more about the academy contact the COS Career and Technical Education (CTE) Office at 938-5512 or email

College of the Siskiyous President Stephen Schoonmaker is also excited about the potentials that surround the new academy.

“This opportunity to enhance our already exceptional Administration of Justice degree program to serve the regional and state law enforcement workforce needs through our new POST Academy is an honor, privilege, and duty we take seriously,” Schoonmaker said. “We couldn’t have been successful in this undertaking without the capable and influential assistance of the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. We owe a debt of gratitude to Sheriff Lopey and Lieutenant LaRue; without their extended involvement in this effort over the past several years, we at the College know we would still be on the outside looking in on this opportunity to open this much needed POST Academy.”