SJI awarded the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) a grant (SJI-11-E-153) in June 2011 after the AOC experienced inconsistencies with state and county probation compliance programs. In New Mexico, probation duties are the constitutional responsibility of the executive branch, housed within the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD). Because of limited resources, the probation department observes a policy that prioritizes surveillance efforts on felony offenders. Per the State’s statute, county officers and the programs they administer must follow the misdemeanor guidelines of the AOC.
The New Mexico Judiciary did not have an internal training program for officers, and instead had often depended on applicants’ prior training in law enforcement or as NMCD probation officers as qualifying background for their positions. The AOC and county affiliates did team up to host two training sessions. However, the State’s budget reductions resulted in a 13 percent cut to the Judiciary. Courts no longer had funding available for training and travel, since that funding was reallocated to cover basic operational costs. The New Mexico Judiciary recognized the need to establish a training regimen for its own court probation/surveillance officers. Given the Judiciary’s funding and staff issues, the AOC determined the most efficient method to train officers was to provide the classroom portion of the training via web-enabled online modules. Some components of the training, such as CPR/First Aid and self-defense are still required to be in a classroom setting; however, most of this type of training is available through various agencies throughout the state. The Judiciary did not want to delay cursory training for the officers because they would be performing their duties without statutory knowledge or awareness of best practices. This could lead to significant safety issues for the officers.
The Judiciary worked with a contractor to turn the existing training footage into web-based learning modules through the use of a multimedia software program called QuidPro®. QuidPro® e-Learning Software is a revolutionary product that allows organizations to develop innovative, interactive, educational programs. The completed programs are considered cross platforms and can either be burned to CD or DVD, posted on the internet, or used with a local network. The court officer basic training includes the following modules: 1) Ethics; 2) Report Writing Basics and Documentation; 3) Office Safety; 4) Introduction to Controlled Substances and Drug Testing; 5) Field Safety; 6) Law Block; and 7) Stress Management.
The New Mexico Judiciary reports there will be approximately $943 in cost savings per officer trained using the online training. The savings is realized not only in staff time, but in other expenses associated with costly travel.
The module is available to the public and can be viewed at http://www.nmcobt.com.