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Sheriff will check on education rule

More than three decades in law enforcement just isn’t enough experience for the Ohio Peace Officers Training Association.

Monday, September 27, 1999

More than three decades in law enforcement just isn’t enough experience for the Ohio Peace Officers Training Association.

Instead, in a bill introduced in the Ohio General Assembly, OPOTA mandates that more training is needed – about 430 hours more, which is the amount of class time needed to qualify for a peace officer training certificate. Both the certificate and the courses are issued by OPOTA.

The bill affects seven Ohio sheriffs, including Lawrence County Sheriff Roy Smith, a 25-year-veteran of the Ohio Highway Patrol with two terms as county sheriff.

Smith, however, does have more than half of the hours needed, and possibly will learn he has even fewer hours to take once he reviews the courses he took during his training with OHP, he said.

"Right now organizations are working with Legislature to try and get an extension on the bill so it does not interfere with the filing deadline," Smith said, adding that the county sheriffs were not notified of the changes in the bill when it was first introduced in 1997. "We were not told about this new legislation; there was nothing there to ever indicate it, otherwise, we would have just gone out and enrolled in the courses."

For Smith, who needs about 150 more hours of training at this point to meet the new state requirements, said if the extension is not granted through January 2001, there is no way possible for any of the affected sheriffs to receive the training before the Jan. 7 filing deadline for the November election.

"The training courses run for about six months and they meet four days a week for four hours a day," he said. "We were told about the change in early August or late July, so there wouldn’t be any way to finish everything before the deadline."

Lawrence County Commissioner George Patterson also disagrees with the mandates.

"If a person has been in office as long as Roy Smith has and then they begin asking for more training, I’d have to see what the reasoning behind such a thing is," Patterson said. "I’m not against anyone picking up additional training to improve their performance on the job, but they’ve introduced legislation before, which, in my opinion, made the choices a person had for their county sheriff far too limited."

Asking a former Ohio Highway Patrol trooper to take two more hours of training in DUI (driving under the influence) enforcement training and an 11-hour block of traffic violation training would seem almost humorous if it didn’t hold the potential of hampering him from running for office again, Smith said.

"They also are saying I need four more hours of leads training, which is a little odd, because I am the leads administrator here. And, a new administrator and tactical officer we had to go get six hours of leads training. plus three weeks mandated training that a new sheriff has to take. While I was there the person who trains in leads came down and gave all of the new sheriffs two more hours leads training, so this would be funny if it wasn’t so serious."

Smith said he received 1,200 to 1,300 hours during his OHP training, which, in former legislation, was equivalent to the OPOTA certificate. He also said he plans to review each of those training courses to make sure the hours calculated for him are correct. Some of the hours may have been taken care of by the OHP training, he said.