North Dakota is giving trained military police officers an easier path for transitioning to civilian law enforcement.

The North Dakota National Guard struck a deal recently with the North Dakota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to offer certain military police officers a partial training waiver as they attempt to join law enforcement in the Peace Garden State.

Instead of going through the usual 12-week training process, Army and Marine military police are now eligible to train for just two weeks. They must still pass the same final exams as everyone else.

“Our soldiers and airmen go through military training that in many cases makes them better or at least competitive for civilian jobs,” said Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, adjutant general for the North Dakota National Guard. “We wanted to make sure our military members get civilian credit for their military-acquired skills.”

This waiver is currently not available to Air Force and Navy police officers but hopefully will be soon, said Lt. Dan Haugen, training director for North Dakota’s Law Enforcement Training Academy.

The shorter training course will focus on issues that might not have come up during the prospective officers’ time in the military, like criminal law, juvenile law, traffic law and rules governing searches and seizures, Haugen said. It will also include an emphasis on North Dakota-specific police procedures, Dohrmann added.

“We’re hoping that with two weeks and their military police background that there’ll be highly qualified police officers in our state,” Haugen said.

Haugen was a Marine police officer from 1994-98 who had to go through the then-mandatory 12-week course for North Dakota law enforcement. He found it redundant given that a lot of what he was being taught overlapped with his military experience.

He believes that military personnel are generally well-suited for civilian law-enforcement work.

“Our core function is protecting and serving the public or the military on the base where we’re stationed,” he said. “What we’re taught is essentially the same, it’s just how we go about doing it that’s different.”

From the North Dakota National Guard’s perspective, this waiver also serves as a recruitment and retention tactic, according to Dohrmann. Thanks to this initiative, an aspiring police officer can join the North Dakota National Guard, get a free education while going through basic training and then become a civilian officer 10 weeks earlier than was previously allowed.

“We really look at this as a potential win-win,” Dohrmann said. “We have a workforce shortage in North Dakota … and our hope is that with this accelerated process, we’ll get more young people interested in being a policeman.”

Dohrmann said that military training allows these officers to become “much more adaptive” to crisis situations and helps them learn to “make better decisions when under pressure.”

Like Haugen, he believes that military and civilian police officers share certain traits that make service members ideal fits for those roles once they return to the U.S.

“All that training experience that employee gets while they’re in the National Guard will make them a better employee when they get back home,” Dohrmann said.

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