Many assume police officers are rigorously trained before being allowed to patrol the streets.

But drive through rural Louisiana and it’s possible to be stopped by a law enforcement officer who’s never experienced a day of police academy and instruction on use of force, stressful scenarios and physical fitness that comes with it. Sometimes, an eight-hour firearms training and on-the-job guidance is all an officer gets before starting work as a salaried, gun-toting, arrest-making officer.

Due to a permissive aspect of state law, a hodgepodge of different standards can crop up from one small agency to the next. It’s a pattern experts say puts police departments, and the public, at risk.

In the small, often poorly-funded townships that connect larger cities such as Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, many police departments take advantage of Revised Statute 40: 2405, which allows full-time officers to serve a year before finishing academy and obtaining their Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) certification.

Officers working part time (39 hours a week or fewer) are not required to attend police academy, which typically lasts around 16 weeks, even if they work under such an arrangement for years on end. And some departments simply violate the law, sometimes failing to send full-time officers to the academy, according to Capt. Kenny Sanders, one of the state’s top police trainers and director of the Caddo Sheriff’s Regional Academy.

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