Maine's Criminal Justice Academy training cadets in a new way through the pandemic

Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 3:53 PM EDT
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COVID-19 is changing the way cadets at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy are learning to become law enforcement officers.

"March 13th, I'll remember it well, it was a Friday. We really started to hear the concerns about the pandemic coming. And really from there on we started to really exercise a contingency plan we never really exercised," said Rick Desjardins, Acting Director at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

That's when the current class of 59 cadets at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy was told not to return to the residency program, and a whole new style of training began.

"So we started using both Zoom and Microsoft Teams to deliver classroom materials. And locate places for our cadets to in smaller groups congregate and to continue on with the training," said Desjardins.

The transition has not been easy.

Switching many of the Academy's components to a virtual platform has certainly brought its challenges.

But Desjardins still believes that the cadets are receiving proper training.

"The lucky thing is again that a lot of the material that we wanted to deliver in the first phase of the program had already been done," said Desjardins.

In the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, more Americans are more closely recognizing the use of physical force by police around the country.

Academy officials wants to make sure proper techniques are still taught to this current and future classes.

"Clearly there's concepts that you can teach virtually, but to do the physical aspects of it. You have to have some level of physical activity and physical contact. And those are things we're going to continue to press to make sure that happens," said Desjardins.

The current cadets would have graduated on May 1st.

Right now, they have a provisional status, allowing them to work temporarily until they officially graduate.

Desjardins adds that this class has overcome some great challenges.

"And hopefully that's our goal for the next class we eventually start to get back to some sense of normalcy," said Desjardins.