A 16-week course required to become a police officer in North Carolina is changing dramatically in 2025 at the lead of the state’s Department of Justice.
Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) is a program offered to citizens over the age of 20 in North Carolina who are looking to go into a career in law enforcement. Operated by the North Carolina DOJ’s Justice Academy, the program is designed to train entry-level individuals with the cognitive and physical skills needed to become certified law enforcement officers in the state.
BLET currently consists of 640 hours and covers 36 topics. However, the Justice Academy has been working to rewrite parts of the course for years in what’s called the BLET 2025 Project.
Subject matter experts, police chiefs, sheriffs, lawyers, and academics began working to remodel the curriculum to enhance the course following a 2018 analysis. Through various meetings, the Justice Academy has reworked the course from 640 hours to 868 hours tentatively, according to drafted documents provided to the Carolina Journal. The 35% jump allows time for more hands-on training so students can practice physical scenarios like de-escalation and dealing with the mentally ill. Written materials are also undergoing refinements, rising from 2,840 pages to 4,492 pages.
The increase will put North Carolina well above the national average of 652 hours and more closely in line with states like Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. On the low end, Georgia’s basic Police Academy requires 408 hours, while Connecticut’s program is about 1,300 hours of training.
The revised BLET program will cover four modules in approximately 21 weeks rather than 16 weeks: law enforcement, criminal investigations, traffic investigations, and patrol duties. Within the four modules are topics such as officer health and wellness, interviews and interrogations, domestic violence, and crowd management.
With over 200 additional hours in the program and expansion to 39 topic areas, most of the lesson plans are increasing in required hours. This includes course orientation (+6), ethical problem solving (+12), communication and de-escalation (+16), compliance and control techniques (+24), driver training (+8), firearms (+48), and criminal investigations (+6).
While the Justice Academy course is expanding significantly, key areas like constitutional law saw a reduction in material despite the overall increase.
Course comparison documents for the spring 2024 pilot session show five topics are decreasing with the program’s expansion: first responder, responding to crime victims, crime prevention, patrol techniques, and arrest, search, seizure, and constitutional law. Dropping from 28 hours to 24 hours, the course’s overall focus on constitutional law will decrease by about one-third in the proposed plans, but the documents did not provide further details on the decline in constitutional rights coursework. Records note that some of the reduced content is covered under other lesson plans.
While there is always room for improvement in education programs, Jon Guze, a Senior Fellow in Legal Studies at the John Locke Foundation, expressed concern over ‘politically correct’ pronoun teachings in the updated curriculum.
“Police training is important, and there’s always room for improvement. This proposal may include many good ideas. Nevertheless, I’m concerned about a couple of things,” Guze said.
He referred to the BLET Advisory Group’s approval of revisions to the curriculum in May 2023 that include using gender-neutral terminology when addressing individuals of the public, which falls under the topic “Communication Skills for Law Enforcement Officers.” Additionally, proposed revisions to the Course Management Guide direct instructors to an article defining 64 terms for gender identity.
“This hardly seems like a productive use of time for police trainees and their instructors. Making matters worse, the same section of the proposed revision to the Course Management Guide directs instructors to the Human Rights Campaign and the Anti-Defamation League as sources to consult regarding which classes of people are vulnerable to hate crimes. Neither of those sources can be regarded as objective. On the contrary, both have been credibly accused of being biased,” Guze added.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest LGBT-interest activist organization in the nation, and ADL is known for acting as a left-wing pressure group, according to Influence Watch. The Course Management Guide provides both sources for BLET instructors to “use at their discretion to enhance the delivery of content.”
The DOJ could not be reached for comment.
Police misconduct prevention has become a national concern in recent years, and improving instruction protocols is just one of the many ways states are working to support prospective officers. However, Guze argues that hiring more police officers and paying them higher salaries is the best way to address police misconduct.
“Putting more active-duty police officers in the field will mean fewer crimes. Fewer crimes will mean fewer and less fraught interactions between the police and the public,” he explained. “Similarly, higher pay scales will attract a larger and better-qualified pool of potential officers. A larger and better-qualified pool of potential officers will reduce the incentive for agencies to keep or rehire bad actors and improve the overall level of professionalism.”
The changes were already tested on students in a 2023 pilot program at Fayetteville Community College, which concluded last month with two students reportedly passing the final exam. The academy continues to test the updated material with 15 more pilot courses at community colleges and law enforcement agencies across the state.
“The Academy has begun implementation of the proposed BLET curriculum in pilot delivery sites throughout the state,” wrote Alex Gazaway, the Justice Academy Training Manager, in a recent document. “The BLET Project Team continues to reconcile feedback, adjusted content, and revise both student and instructor materials for the next phase of pilot testing. I will be providing an overview of the curriculum status, course management issues and implementation.”
When the pilots conclude later this year, the academy will collect information on recommended changes so they can make any needed adjustments before the new curriculum rolls out to about 68 delivery sites in 2025.
The Education and Training Committee is scheduled to meet on February 21 at 2 p.m to discuss the BLET Revision Project.