01/14/10 — James Sprunt CC program draws fire from regulators

View Archive

James Sprunt CC program draws fire from regulators

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 14, 2010 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The North Carolina Department of Justice's Criminal Justice Standards Division is auditing the Basic Law Enforcement Training Program at James Sprunt Community College, leaving 15 law enforcement trainees in limbo.

According to a letter sent to JSCC President Dr. Lawrence Rouse on Dec. 4, an audit of the program revealed that "curriculum instruction required for the delivery of course work in Law Enforcement Driver Training may not be in compliance due to stipulated instructional irregularities in number of lecture hours provided, the lack of a required model policy not being presented, irregularities in allowed amount of practical exercise time, and irregularities in procedure and scoring practices and practice runs."

The audit also called into question what director Wayne Woodard described as "a lack of Commission School Director oversight of the class reflected by the lack of instructor(s) evaluation" and "test scoring irregularities in the delivery of course work in Elements of Criminal Law."

CJS Field Services Coordinator Alex Setzer conducted an audit on Nov. 20-21 by interviewing four BLET day class students, one commission instructor and three college staff persons. The audit "did reveal that the administration of instruction regarding skill practical exercises and/or academic courses might not be of sufficient merit to meet the certification standards associated with the satisfactory completion of course work," the letter said.

Rouse confirmed that the school is currently undergoing a curriculum audit of its basic law enforcement training program.

"The audit is being conducted by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Standards Commission in response to the college's concern regarding instruction in the BLET Driving Course and subsequent testing. In November of 2009, the Department Chair of Vocational and Technical Program at JSCC monitored the required driving training instruction and noted some concerns and discrepancies in regards to meeting the certification standards as required by the commission," Rouse said.

The chair then reported his concerns to the college administration, who reported the issues to the state Criminal Justice Education and Standards Commission. The commission then began auditing the college's BLET program.

The students affected by the audit received a letter from the commission about the commission's actions, the president said.

Army National Guard member and JSCC law enforcement training student Isaiah Kennedy said the biggest issue for many of the students was a lack of communication about what was happening.

"We really just wanted answers because no one was telling us what was going on," Kennedy said.

When the students were preparing last November to take the BLET comprehensive written exam, they were told they would not be allowed to take the test. Confused, the students started asking questions to find out what went wrong.

"We were advised that if we didn't really push the issue, to let them work through it, they would be very cooperative," Kennedy said.

Although Kennedy himself did not already have a job lined up to step into the field after taking the course, he did have concerns over how the delay could affect him.

"I'm in the military, and I used my G.I. bill, but you only get 36 months. If I don't get my certificate, I've wasted that amount of time trying to go to school," Kennedy said.

However, he believes the situation can and will be resolved in time.

"I think that given time, it should work out. We feel like it's being resolved," Kennedy said.

Retaking the classes would take about three weeks, and is "not really that big of a deal," he added.

And if that is a necessary step, the college will pay for it, Rouse said.

"The college's first priority is our students who have had to put their career goals on hold until this matter can be resolved. We have 15 students who are affected by the audit and have attempted to do everything within our power to assist them during this most difficult time. If the audit reveals a need for additional or repeated coursework the college will bear the cost," Rouse said.

Holding the college's programs to the highest standards to ensure students' ability to compete and perform in a global marketplace is another top priority, and the college has been proactive in seeking the commission's assistance in resolving the concerns, he said.

"We only regret that our students were unable to complete the Basic law Enforcement Training Program as planned but we are confident that they will be able to complete the program in short order with the required skills," Rouse said.

The commission has also scheduled an audit of the program's trainees and administrative records. Officials are hoping the full audit will be completed by the end of January, contingent on the investigating commission's schedule and resources.