Washington currently has the fewest commissioned police officers per capita of any state in the nation.

One of the primary reasons for the shortage is a logjam of law enforcement recruits who still need training before they can officially protect and serve.

City of Wenatchee Police Chief, Steve Crown, who is also president of the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs (WASPC), says the state’s lone and longstanding police academy in Burien is simply not able to keep up any longer.

“The Criminal Justice Training Commission is literally running at-capacity for their police academy – they’re splitting at the seams. Because they’re not only responsible for the police academy, but they also have a corrections academy and several other training components that are centrally-located.”

WASPC is currently working on a strategy to regionalize Washington’s police training system by opening four more academy locations throughout the state, including one in Pasco that would serve the state’s eastside.

Gov. Jay Inslee has announced his support for the plan, and calls Washington’s current backlog of over 130 recruits who are waiting to receive training “unacceptable.”

Crown says nearly every police and sheriff’s agency in the state is in the midst of an officer shortage, with some verging on potentially dire consequences as a result.

“This is serious. There’s a lot of agencies that are just one critical incident away from tipping over and really disrupting a community by not having enough people in their force.”

The plan to increase the number of police training centers in Washington from one to five will be introduced in the state legislature during the 2023 sessions.

If approved, the first new academy would open in Pasco, since that city already has the necessary supporting infrastructure for such a facility.

Meanwhile, Spokane County is already working on a separate project to build an academy that would expedite the process of training recruits within its jurisdiction.