The Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy was established by the 1963 Arkansas General Assembly with the passage of Act 526. No funds were appropriated for the operation of the Academy at that time. For the next two years, concerned and interested law enforcement administrators worked diligently towards establishing an academy which would provide training to law enforcement officers in the state.
In 1965, Act 514 provided the necessary appropriations for the operations of the Academy. In that year also, Act 172 amended the act which originally created the Academy and placed it under the supervision and the direction of a board composed of three members appointed by the Governor.
In July 1965, Robert S. Moore, Hollis Spencer, and Carl L. Miller were appointed as the first Commissioners. The first director, George V. Armstrong, was selected in August, 1965.
For many months, the Academy had no permanent location. Classes were conducted in various locations throughout the State where suitable facilities could be obtained. The first temporary facilities were obtained through a contract with the Parks and Publicity Department for Hardison Hall on Petit Jean Mountain.
The first Academy course was a Supervisory Training Course presented October 18 – 29, 1965, at Hardison Hall. It was attended by thirty-three officers.
It soon became apparent that the Academy needed full-time facilities of its own in order to fulfill its obligations. Various locations were considered. The possibility of locating in East Camden was discussed in the latter part of 1965 and early 1966.
Land, which was owned by the United States Government and utilized as the Shumaker Ordinance Plant was converted to private enterprise by Brown & Root of Houston, Texas. It was decided that a portion of this land would be donated to the State Department of Education with the understanding that 13.6 acres would be used for a Law Enforcement Training Academy. As a result, the Academy was provided with permanent facilities at East Camden. The original structure, which is a part of the current facility was formerly utilized as Bachelor Officers Quarters at the Naval Depot. It was modified and converted to provide food, lodging, and training to law enforcement officers of the state.
The International Paper Company donated to the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy 56.9 acres adjoining the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy property in 1971. On August 26, 1986, 2.21 acres were donated to the Academy by Highland Resources Incorporated, formerly known as HRI Resources, Inc. This increased the total acreage to 72.71 acres, more or less.
Class 68-A was the first class to be conducted in the Camden facility. The three week course was conducted January 28 – February 16 and was composed of thirty-four officers.
There were many changes at the Academy during the following months and years. A variety of courses were offered to meet the training needs of state, county, municipal, and other law enforcement officers. For a time, a mobile classroom was utilized for instruction in various parts of the state where no facilities were available.
In the early 1970s, it was realized that the existing facilities were inadequate. Plans were made and approved for the construction of new facilities valued at 1.3 million dollars. This project was completed in March, 1976.
The Academy continues to provide basic training for new officers and specialized training for certified police officers at its facility near East Camden, while providing field training classes as requested around the state.
The Executive Commission on Law Enforcement Standards was created by House Bill 577 enacted by the Seventieth General Assembly, which was signed by Governor David Pryor on March 18, 1975 and became known as Act 452 of 1975, and later compiled as AR Statue Ann. 42-1001–1009, and presently Arkansas Code of 1987 Annotated 12-9-101–12-9-109.
The Act granted the Executive Commission the power to establish reasonable minimum standards for selection and training of law enforcement officers in Arkansas, to certify officers as being qualified by training and education, to examine and evaluate instructors and courses of instruction and certify extent of qualification respectively.
The Commission was composed of five members appointed by the governor to five-year terms, which were staggered. Act 452 requires the Commission to meet formally at least four times a year, adopt rules and regulations to govern its operations, select one of its member as chairman and is authorized to enter into contracts or do such things as may be necessary and incidental to the administration of the Act.
The Minimum Standards became effective January 1, 1978.
Act 45 of 1981 abolished the Department of Public Safety and transferred the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy from the agency to the newly created Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training. The same Act abolished the Executive Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and transferred that agency to the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training. The Act became effective July 1, 1981.
On July 13, 1981, Governor Frank White appointed the first seven (7) Commission members for the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training. In August of 1983 a representative of the Senior Citizens was appointed to serve on the Commission bring the total number to eight (8). In August of 1993 the President of the Arkansas Municipal Police Association was appointed to serve as a Commission Member bringing the total of commissioners to nine (9). In February of 2009, House Bill 1371 added an officer of the Department of Arkansas State Police as a commission member bringing the current total to ten (10).
In response to a recognized need to train officers in the safe operation of emergency vehicles, a decision was made to construct a top quality driving track at the academy. Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) instructors studied the designs utilized by training facilities in other states and a course that would replicate the varied road surfaces in Arkansas was planned.
In 1995 the legislature appropriated one million dollars to build the track and construction began that year at the East Camden facility. In 1997 the track became operational with over 7,000 feet of both straight and curved paved roadway, as well as a 20,000 square foot “skills pad” used to train officers in a variety of emergency maneuvers. An expanded driver trainer course was incorporated into the Basic Police Training Course.
As the number of law enforcement officers hired in the State of Arkansas increased, so did the need for additional training facilities. The need for a Satellite facility was apparent. Utilizing the Jones Family Center in Springdale, the NW Academy held its’ first Basic Police Training Course in 1997.
Plans were submitted and approved by the legislature to construct a permanent facility for the NW Academy. In 1998, approximately 72 acres of land was purchased. In February 2001 construction began on the 12,000 square foot facility which was completed in the Fall of 2001 and now includes a gymnasium, office space, two classrooms, an armory and showers. The site also has a 30 lane pistol range.
The Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training is dedicated to improving the standards and the training of law enforcement officers in our state.