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Supervisors approve Sheriff academy probe

• Reality show might have compromised training

Posted: May 22, 2008 2:28 a.m.
Updated: July 23, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
You can expect to hear plenty of grunting from inside the College of the Canyons gymnasium this summer as young recruits continue training for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, despite a call this week for a formal review of the training that goes on there and at other academies.

What you won't see at the academy, however, are recruits adjusting their hair in the mirror or practising their smiles for TV cameras.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael D. Antonovich to have the Office of Independent Review investigate violations at the Sheriff's training academy relating to training, facility deficiencies, remediation protocols, and whether filming a TV reality show at the academy is hurting the cadets' training.

The TV show in question is called, fittingly, "The Academy."

It's a reality TV show that recently got a little to too real for cadet instructors.

Bob Stresak, bureau chief for the press information office of the Commission on Peace Officers, Standards and Training, said the show compromised recruit testing when it aired portions of actual tests given to recruits.

"The number one concern is that when the show began filming we allowed them to sit in on the testing procedure," he said. "We had to pull that test from all 40 academies because the show compromised some of the tests."

The North Academy facility operating at the College of the Canyons is one of three area training academies for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The others are the Star Center Academy in Whittier and the academy in Pomona.

"Anytime you bring a camera crew, it's going to be a distraction," Stresak said. "Especially when you're dealing with law enforcement issues. We need these recruits to be attentive. That's not going to happen when they're trying to maneuver in front of the TV camera.

"You're talking about young recruits, in their twenties, with limited life experiences, who haven't been in front of a TV camera before - I'm sure it's going to be a distraction."

"The OIR is just doing their job," Stresak said.

Michael J. Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review, told The Signal Wednesday, that the review is already underway.

"We've already started to lay out the issues. We knew this was coming even before we were beginning to be debriefed by the (sheriff's) department," he said.

Asked whether or not the reality TV show will be the focus of his probe, Gennaco said: "That was something the board wanted to us to look at. It may or may not be intertwined with what POST is looking at.

"We're not sure if any guidelines were violated."

Training lasts 18 weeks, with the current batch of trainees scheduled to graduate in mid-July.

Deputy Darby, an instructor at the North Academy at COC, said cadets training now will graduate July 17.

Asked how many will graduate, she said: "We won't know until graduation."

Despite media reports last week that Sheriff Lee Baca shut down training for a month, a spokesman for the department told The Signal Wednesday that those reports were wrong.

Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Sheriff's department, said training is continuing and Tuesday's decision by the board changes no part of that training.

"Nothing has been closed, nothing has been shut down," he said. "It's business as usual. They (OIR) is going to review the entire academy, all of the academies. It's just a review."

The reality TV show which sparked the controversy - The Academy: LASD Class #368 - is scheduled to begin its second season Saturday on the Fox network.

Since the show was taped, recruits in subsequent classes have already graduated.

Thirty-two graduates of Academy Class #370 graduated April 18, at a ceremony in Lancaster at the JP Eliopulos Pavilion on the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds.

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