Training New Law Enforcement Recruits100 percent of the graduates of the Police Academy at McLennan Community College in Waco have passed the state test to become certified peace officers in Texas on their first try
Since its creation in 2004, 100 percent of the graduates of the Police Academy at McLennan Community College in Waco have passed the state test to become certified peace officers in Texas on their first try.
Alumnus Dennis Stapleton, the former Police and Fire Chief in Lacy Lakeview and current non-paid officer in Woodway, is hoping to keep that tradition going. In July, he was appointed as the new Director of the Law Enforcement Academy, which also includes certification programs for jailers and telecommunication operators.
“It is a very good program,” said Stapleton, who has taught in the program since 2005. “It has a real good structure, and we’re just tweaking it a little. What I have been charged with is continuing our tradition.”
Stapleton brings 31 years of experience in the field to the program, as well as an extensive network of contacts in agencies throughout Texas. In addition to serving as chief in Lacy Lakeview and a former Lieutenant in Woodway, Stapleton participated in the FBI National Academy and the Leadership Command College (LCC) at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He also has a master’s degree in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management from Sam Houston State University.
The Law Enforcement Academy is licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) to serve agencies in McLennan County and surrounding areas such as Bell, Bosque, Coryell, Falls, Hamilton, Hill, and Limestone counties. Since 2004, the program has graduated nearly 500 cadets and 228 jailers and recently initiated a program for telecommunication operators. The program also offers continuing education opportunities for law enforcement officers in the area.
The 19-week academy is 752 hours, the maximum allowed by TCOLE. It includes classroom instruction and hands-on training in practical aspect of the job, such as arrests, handcuffing, shooting, traffic stops and building searches, to name a few. “We do a lot of extra stuff,” said Stapleton. “We put a lot of real life experience in it. We select current and retired instructors to provide the most current information and tactics for the cadets.”
The program recently amended the fitness component to stress the importance of being and remaining physically prepared to perform the duties of an officer. Recruits are required to participate in physical fitness three times a week, and a fitness assessment is held three times during the program. “We want to develop good habits on fitness,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton knows the importance of training and education in the criminal justice field. Throughout his career, he always was striving to learn more.
While at the Woodway Police Department, Stapleton attended the FBI National Academy and the LLC, which introduced him to leadership training. Not only did the program provide valuable information for his career, he also built networks with criminal justice professionals throughout the state, many of whom remain his close friends to this day. He also became involved with the LCC Alumni Association and eventually served as President in 2009.
After taking other training opportunities at LEMIT, Stapleton knew he wanted more, so he got his bachelor’s degree and joined the master’s program at SHSU. “I gained so much knowledge, and I am thankful for my professors,” he said.
Stapleton is quick to recommend higher education and leadership training programs to all the professionals coming through his program.
“I am an advocate for higher education, leadership training, and setting career and education goals,” said Stapleton. “The other important component is to follow through with those goals,” “Regarding leadership today, in my First Line Supervisor class I always ask this question: Would you say there are more good leaders or bad leaders in the work force? Unfortunately, the answer is always bad leaders, and we need to continue to develop the good leaders in our profession. Higher education and programs such as LCC will help a person achieve the ‘good leader’ category.”
Stapleton said it is important to have good mentors and support along the way among family and friends. “I also attribute my success to those who pushed me, encouraged me to always work harder and be a better problem-solver,” he said. “In my opinion, to be successful as a Chief, you need a support group, and mentors. I had two Chiefs that I could call upon for advice and encouragement and they were so helpful throughout my career. “