New peace officer academy opening in Buffalo

Feb 10, 2017

The Peace Officer Training Academy is holding an Open House Saturday  for its new location in a renovated factory building at 2180 Elmwood Avenue. It is the first time since the initial class in August 2000 that the Academy has had its own facility.

The academy, a private business, now has the capacity of graduating more than 100 peace officers a year. The Buffalo location, plus two other training centers, in Syracuse and New York City, is independently run by retired corrections and law enforcement officer Dennis Brennan.

Dennis Brennan (left) and Tactical Instructor Justin Leigher under photographs of some of the peace officers the academy has graduated.
Credit WBFO's Marian Hetherly

Peace officers definitely don't get the respect [police officers] do," he says. "We try to bring back the respect they deserve."

Brennan says there are 82 categories of peace officer in the state Criminal Code. Peace officers secure our transit systems, our hospitals and our universities. They are state investigators, animal control officers, parole officers and court bailiffs, among other positions.

"They don't realize we also train security officers and they don't realize there are over 110,000 security officers in the state," he says. "If you consider them a second cousin to law enforcement, they're the largest agency that we have. There are a lot of security guards in New York State."

And the need for security is growing, he says. Brennan also reminds that peace officers have similar powers to police officers.

"As a peace officer you can make arrests, take possession of a firearm, do frisks, anything a police officer can do," Brennan says. "In fact, in New York State you can make a felony arrest. So peace officers have the same powers as police officers. It's just a reduction of duties and training."

Brennan says, unlike police officers, peace officers are usually responsible for securing one location, such as a campus, and receive 146 hours of training with firearms at the academy, as compared to 820 hours of training for police officers.

Dennis Brennan and Tactical Instructor Justin Leigher in the academy's classroom.
Credit WBFO's Marian Hetherly

"They get a basic training, they get discipline, they do defensive tactics," Brennan says. "Constitutional Law, they have a big program they have to go through. I think they're sometimes misunderstood as not real cops. That's way out of line."

WBFO asked him for his position on the recent discussion about law enforcement training. Brennan says nothing compares to on-the-job experience.

"We take them out to firearms training and given them different scenarios: shoot, don't shoot, when to shoot, when not to shoot," he says. "We training them the best way that we can, but until they get out into the field, if they don't have the experience. You might be a police officer or a peace officer for six months and all of the sudden you're in a violent domestic and you're gonna use your firearm. You're going to have to make a best judgment as to when to use your firearm. We give them the best training we can in use of force."         

Brennan says the academy provides seven hours of basic training on use of force and use of deadly force, including use of pepper spray, batons, hands-on and hands off. The quote the academy trains by is: "Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong."

The next class begins Tuesday and Brennan expects to have three each year. Once training is complete, he says graduates are certified to be peace officers anywhere in New York State.