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Home » Mason County Sheriff Blotter » A look inside your sheriff’s office: Article 2: Leadership Training and Qualifications

A look inside your sheriff’s office: Article 2: Leadership Training and Qualifications

For a law enforcement agency, selecting the right people for leadership positions is critically important.  First-level supervisors in the patrol and corrections divisions are relied upon to make mission critical decisions in low-frequency, high-risk, and high-liability events on a regular basis. Leaders in command positions perform a wide array of duties that require special skills in leadership of personnel, management of organizational resources, and running the “business” in a way that is responsive to and reflective of the needs of our community. 

In a later edition of “A Look Inside Your Sheriff’s Office” we will delve into the process by which employees are tested and/or selected to fill leadership ranks within the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.  But first, in this edition of “A Look Inside Your Sheriff’s Office,” we will examine what leadership training is required for leaders within a fully accredited law enforcement agency such as the MCSO.  As with many aspects of the law enforcement profession, the requirements are more complicated than they may seem on first blush.

Required Leadership Training

For some leadership positions within a law enforcement agency there are specific requirements mandated by Washington State law.  For example, “law enforcement personnel initially hired to, transferred to, or promoted to a supervisory or management position…shall, within the first six months of entry into the position, successfully complete the core training requirements prescribed by rule of the commission for the position” (RCW 43.101.350).  For a “first-level supervisory position” the supervisor must:

  • Have “a basic law enforcement or corrections certificate or basic equivalency certificate…”
  • Complete “twelve months of service as a first-level supervisor”
  • Complete “the first level supervision course provided by the training commission”
  • And, finish “at least 40 additional elective training hours intended or approved for the first-level supervisory position” (WAC 139-25-110)

Once law enforcement personnel are promoted to a middle-management position then s/he is required to go through a similar process for career level certification. (WAC 139-25-110)

Not all leadership positions are required to complete the Career Level Certification (CLC) process as outlined in the above listed RCW and WAC.The question of who is required to complete the CLC training is based on the legal definition of “law enforcement personnel.”Fortunately, the law clearly defines law enforcement personnel as “any public employee or volunteer having as a primary function the enforcement of criminal laws” (RCW 43.101.010); in other words, personnel who hold “a basic law enforcement or corrections certificate.”

Not Required Does Not Mean Not Qualified

Some leaders within a law enforcement agency, such as an executive level position in finance or records (among others), might not qualify for CLC because they don’t have “a basic law enforcement or corrections certificate.”However, not being required (or possibly even eligible) to complete the CLC process does not mean the individual is not qualified to hold their executive level position, in fact the opposite is usually true.For example, a sheriff has the authority to appoint a certain number of unclassified (non-civil service, exempt) employees to fulfill key roles within the law enforcement agency (RCW 41.14.070).The sheriff’s appointments do not have to be law enforcement personnel; rather, the sheriff can seek out highly educated, credentialed, and experienced people to fulfill roles such as a Chief Civil Deputy, for example.The Chief Civil Deputy may not be eligible for CLC because s/he does not have “a basic law enforcement or corrections certificate,” but none-the-less the individual has all the education, training, and experience to be the best choice for the position.

MCSO Command Staff Leadership Experience

By now you should be asking, “So, what is the status of leadership training at the Mason County Sheriff’s Office?”Great question, glad you asked! The MCSO is a fully accredited law enforcement agency through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.In order to received accreditation the agency must meet standard 11.7 which states that “Staff members who are designated as full-time supervisors or managers have earned the appropriate certification by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. Purpose: Agencies must comply with RCW 43.101.350.”In other words, the MCSO has had an outside accrediting agency confirm that your sheriff’s office fully meets the leadership training requirements established by law.

The MCSO command staff, however, has training and experience that goes far beyond the minimum required by law.Collectively, members of the command staff have:

  • 4 Master’s Degrees: two of which are specifically in Organizational Leadership
  • 6 Bachelor’s Degrees
  • 2 Associate’s Degrees
  • Thousands of hours of training, much of which is leadership focused.
  • And, numerous certifications and credentials specific to the leadership positions held by each individual.

What You Should Take-Away

The law specifies the basic level of leadership training required for personnel “having as a primary function the enforcement of criminal laws,” but law enforcement chief executives have wide latitude to hire highly skilled individuals to fill critical executive-level positions who are not legally defined as “law enforcement personnel.”A Chief Civil Deputy may, for example, be highly trained and credentialed in finance, human resources, civil law, or any of a number of other topics which are critical to operating a modern law enforcement agency.The law enforcement agency’s chief executive has a responsibility to hire individuals who will best fulfill the needs of the organization, and often those individuals are not “law enforcement personnel,” per se.