College Seeks to Renew Tie to Sheriff’s Academy


More than a decade after the Ventura County Sheriff’s Academy ended its partnership with Ventura College over a staffing dispute, college officials are renewing their battle to provide community college students access to the police training facility.

But some faculty and Ventura County Community College District board members have refused to back the new plan, saying that the same problems that doomed a 1991 proposal plague the new effort. Meanwhile, academy officials say they consider a joint arrangement between the facility and the college a “dead issue.”

The board tabled the issue in November, after concerns were raised over funding and how much control the district would have over the program and its instructors.


“I would be really happy if it could work,” Trustee John Tallman said. “It’s a good deal for everyone, but we are still facing the same problems.”

Now the board is looking to the college’s new chancellor, Philip Westin, who had oversight of a similar program as president of Golden West College in Huntington Beach, to move the project forward.

“I was asked to put it on the front burner,” said Westin, who assumed his new post Jan. 2. “I plan to get heavily involved after my first board meeting [this week].”

As proposed, Ventura College students could enroll in 40-hours-a-week classes at the Sheriff’s Academy in Camarillo, enabling them to earn the state’s Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification. At the end of the program, they would be eligible to apply to police and sheriff’s departments.

In addition to expanding Ventura College’s criminal justice program, the revived program would increase the district’s state funding, which is based on the number of full-time students. Likewise, the academy stands to benefit from a revenue-sharing agreement with the district that would provide a portion of the additional state money generated from the extra students.

Meanwhile, academy cadets again would be able to earn college credit for their studies, encouraging them to pursue other criminal justice classes, said Lt. Chris Godfrey, who heads the academy.


Godfrey said that he was to have signed on at the college as an “instructor of record,” making him responsible for coordinating the program. Then, 86 police officers and sheriff’s deputies from around Ventura County who teach his program’s classes--everything from criminal law and traffic stop procedures to self-defense and weapons-handling--would serve as guest lecturers.


But such an arrangement raises a number of red flags for college trustees. Chief among them, said Trustee Allan Jacobs, is whether instructors would be considered employees of the district or the Sheriff’s Department.

Although the current proposal calls for the instructor of record to be jointly employed by the district and the Sheriff’s Department, it is unclear whether the individual instructors under him would be considered employees of the district.

An incident at Westin’s former campus has some trustees concerned about accountability. Last month, three police academy instructors were asked to resign from the Golden West College academy after two students were forced to eat their own cigarettes--placed between two pieces of white bread--as punishment for smoking.

“The proposal put forth by Ventura College does not provide for them being our employees,” said Tallman. “If they decide to feed the students cigarette sandwiches, it would be really difficult to do anything about it.”

Although 18 community colleges in the state currently have agreements with local law enforcement agencies for cooperative police training, each devises its own employment arrangement based on local concerns, said David Sylstra, a senior consultant to the state’s POST commission.


Then there is the district hiring policy, which grants faculty the right to interview and choose new instructors through a heavily regulated process that includes advertising all positions and complying with affirmative-action standards. New hires are then approved by the board.

According to Miller, the teachers union will not back any plan that does not follow this hiring process.

And Trustee Tallman has said that all 86 guest lecturers must be hired on an individual basis to comply with the district policy.

But sheriff’s officials have said they don’t plan to consult the district on whom they can hire as academy instructors.

“We feel we are in a better position to make a determination about the capability of our instructors,” Godfrey said. “For the college to tell us that a homicide investigator with 10 years of experience and a college degree is not qualified is ridiculous.”

Because he would like to see the arrangement finally go forward, Godfrey said he is disappointed at the setbacks.



After initiating the latest attempt to reopen the Sheriff’s Academy to community college students, Godfrey said he and Lyn MacConnaire, Ventura College’s vice president of instruction, worked for 13 months to come up with a viable proposal.

They were so confident that the new proposal would be approved that the college included the academy’s courses in its spring catalog. It subsequently had to turn away more than a dozen interested students.

But MacConnaire said the college has gone as far as it could with this proposal at the campus level and that a number of options to make the agreement work still remain.

“All we want is to get an agreement with two agencies that would get credit for our students and the cadets,” she said.

Times staff writer Mack Reed contributed to this story.