Craig officers get specialized training |

Craig officers get specialized training

Jeremy Browning

In the final major round of training this year, the Craig Police Department sent six officers to specialized training seminars in the last month.

Chief Walt Vanatta said his department has been fortunate to send several officers each month to courses where they can polish their skills, learn new policing techniques or receive education to stay abreast of trends in law enforcement.

Many small departments don’t have that luxury. But the city of Craig not only has had the resources but has understood the need for continued training. Education for officers is one of the first items to be cut in lean times. It’s not difficult to decide between gas for patrol cars or advanced training, Vanatta said.

But when training gets cut, so does the level of service.

“That’s when a department becomes stagnant and doesn’t keep up with trends,” Vanatta said. “The better trained we are, the better service we provide.”

Officers are required to attend roughly 40 hours of in-service courses each year. On top of that, some officers want to take extra classes because they are curious or interested in new fields.

“We try to balance training with the desires of the officers versus the needs of the department,” Vanatta said.

To counter the costs of sending officers to educational seminars, which normally cost $1,000 for a 1-week course, Vanatta said he tries to host courses in Craig. By eliminating travel expenses, the cost drops considerably. Also, he tries to schedule workshops that can benefit both police and the Moffat County Sheriff’s Department. It meets the needs of both agencies and is cost-effective as well.

In September, the Craig Police Department sent six officers to training:

  • School Resource Officer Jesse McAvoy attended Drug Awareness Resistance Education Officer training in Douglas, Wyo.
  • Officer Alvin Luker attended Basic Radar Operator training at the Meeker Police Department in Meeker.
  • Cpl. Bryan Gonzales attended Street Crimes and Surveillance Techniques training in Aurora.
  • Chief Walt Vanatta attended the Federal Bureau of Investigation Central States Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar in Lawrence, Kan.
  • Sgt. Bill Leonard attended Basic and Advanced Auto Theft Investigation training in Glenwood Springs.
  • Officer Sue Burns attended Crime Scene Response for New Detectives training in Louisville, Ky.

Vanatta said he was fortunate to attend the FBI training this year because not many people were invited.

“I was one of 38 people invited from six states to attend it,” Vanatta said.

The seminar covered topics, such as media relations, future trends, including terrorism, 21st Century Leadership, executive decision making, managing across the generations, and a legal update.

Vanatta said he’s already had an opportunity to share some of the things he has learned. At last week’s staff meeting, he conducted exercises on decision making and problem solving, along with some teambuilding activities.

September’s training was the last round for 2003.

With a busy hunting season on the horizon and the holiday season on its heals, Vanatta said, “We’ve kinda frozen our training for the rest of the year to save for next year.”

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or

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