By Tom Coulter
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Highway Patrol announced Monday the relocation of its trooper training academy to Laramie County Community College's main campus starting mid-January.
Through the partnership, the patrol will use dorm rooms, six office spaces, the gymnasium, the cafeteria, fitness equipment and classrooms on campus to train prospective troopers.
Officials from LCCC, WHP and the Wyoming Department of Transportation gathered Monday to discuss the move during an announcement ceremony at the college's Flex Tech Building.
During the announcement, LCCC President Joe Schaffer said the partnership will allow the college to provide opportunities to prospective troopers, while also improving the campus climate.
"I can tell you, I don't think I know of a single institution of higher education that can boast that level of engagement with law enforcement, with safety and security experts that LCCC will be able to provide," Schaffer said.
The partnership will also allow cadets going through training at LCCC to gain additional credits hours for a criminal justice degree.
"These cadets are going to be LCCC students," Schaffer said. "In a time where, as a state, we're trying to raise the level of post-secondary education attainment of our adults ... this is a very exciting opportunity for these individuals to be dually enrolled as students while also going through the academy."
Schaffer said LCCC faculty and staff are already in conversation to identify additional degree programs and pathways that will allow troopers to use their training to attain an associate's or bachelor's degree.
LCCC staff conducted a detailed analysis to ensure the campus had the capacity to take on the cadets. Schaffer said the new 352-bed dormitory currently under construction was key to creating the space to accommodate the academy.
"Without that new residence hall, we probably wouldn't have been able to have the conversation that we're having with the Highway Patrol," Schaffer said. "With it, though, I think we're naturally adding capacity at the right time to be able to allow them some fluctuation, maybe as few as 15 (cadets), but I know there's certainly some interest down the road in growing."
Wyoming Highway Patrol Col. Kebin Haller said the academy's new location could allow the patrol to save on some logistical costs. For the past 17 years, the training academy has been hosted by the Wyoming National Guard at Camp Guernsey, which Haller said was challenging, since the WHP headquarters is in Cheyenne.
"It's 100 miles one way (to Camp Guernsey) from headquarters, which is where we have our primary resources, equipment and supplies, so a lot of road time on our instructors hauling equipment back and forth," Haller said. "Being here at LCCC in the near future, that means we're just across town."
Cadets will also have more access to the patrol’s firearms range and to an Emergency Vehicle Operations road course, Haller said.
As part of the move, the Highway Patrol will make a financial contribution to LCCC, and the college will make in-kind contributions back to the WHP in exchange for access to their expertise, Schaffer said.
"As the colonel mentioned, we hope it saves the Highway Patrol some funds," Schaffer said. "It certainly helps the campus, yet also finds opportunities in both cases for us to give a little of what we're able to give to where we're all more efficient."
WYDOT Director Luke Reiner said the Highway Patrol is "very close" to filling all of its 208 authorized positions.
"About 10% of the individuals who start the process are eventually sworn in," Reiner said. "It is a special and elite group, and that's what you'll have here on your campus."
Reiner added the partnership could allow for a "two-for-one," in which LCCC students might see potential career opportunities with the Highway Patrol.
"I think there's going to be some current students at LCCC who say, 'Man, that's pretty cool being a trooper. I think I should be one,' and then just sort of swap on over," Reiner said.
The academy's move to LCCC will be complete in mid-January, when about 10 trooper cadets will begin their training.